Biblical Leadership – Part I

by BJ Rudge, Ph. D.

All verses are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise stated.

As we continue to be bombarded with debates, ads, policies and campaign promises, the process of electing the next President of the United States confronts us with the question, “What is leadership?” Of course, just as there are diverse opinions on who should be the next president, so too there are diverse opinions on what it takes to be an effective leader. Therefore, over the next few weeks, we are going to look at the Bible to see what it teaches on this topic.

Why This Study?

Perhaps you are one of those people who could care less about the next presidential election. Maybe you don’t see yourself being in a leadership role. So why would this study be important for you? Regardless of occupation, age or position, this study is important for every Christian because:

1) We desperately need godly leaders (2 Timothy 2:2). A good friend of mine came into my office one day. After ten years as a youth pastor he was ready to leave the ministry. He told me that in spite of serving at three different churches, he never had a spiritual mentor. He was truly frustrated because he desperately desired to have an older man in his life disciple him, just as Paul did with Timothy (2 Timothy 1:13; 3:10, 14).

My friend’s experience is not isolated. I meet people all the time that say they have no example of a true man or woman of God in their lives. Instead of encountering men and women totally sold out to God, they end up being exposed to “Christian” leaders who often reflect more of the world than Jesus Christ. So this study is essential, because today we need more godly men and women.

2) All of us will leave a legacy. What legacy we leave will depend upon the impact we have had on those within our circle of influence. In other words, have we provided our family, friends, coworkers, etc, with an authentic example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ? Would we want others to follow our pattern/way of living? Paul is a great reminder that all of us are in a race. Like Paul, let our legacies be that we did not just run in the race, but we ran to win:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).

3) We all need discernment in knowing whom we should trust as our spiritual leaders. Many people tell me that they attend a particular church because their pastor is a great communicator and storyteller. While the effectiveness of pastors includes communication skills, we had better go beyond that in determining what pastor (or any leader for that matter) we should follow! We need to avoid shepherds who only look to entertain us and tickle our ears, and find ones whose ultimate aim is to drive us toward holy and righteous living:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:1-4).

4) Finally, this study is important because every follower of Jesus Christ has an eternal calling. We are not in this world to merely pursue temporal rewards. Rather, as Paul says, we run this race for Christ to receive an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:24, 25). Knowing that we have an eternal purpose and destiny, we cannot just sit on the sidelines and be spectators. We need to step out of our comfort zone and make an eternal impact on our world for Jesus Christ.

In future blogs, we will examine the qualities of both a bad and a good leader.

Stepping Out In Faith

By BJ Rudge, Ph. D.

The greatest battles we often face will occur the moment we step out in faith. Consider Nehemiah who stepped out in faith when he asked the Persian King for permission to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. While being commissioned by the king to complete this task, we find that Nehemiah’s act of faith and trust in God came with challenges. For example, opposition quickly arose to discourage and prevent him from doing what God had called him to do,

“But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’” (Nehemiah 2:19; see chapters 4-6 for further examples of challenges and opposition that Nehemiah had to endure).

Just as it was in the life of Nehemiah, I recently saw how the act of stepping out in faith by one of my soccer players was preceded by a personal challenge. Prior to our season I had been praying for God to provide ministry opportunities. I was specifically praying for God to prepare the hearts of my athletes for whatever He wanted to accomplish. I wanted this season to be more than just about wins. I wanted to see the Holy Spirit change lives for eternity.

As we began the season, I continued to bring this request before the Lord, still wondering in my own mind how He would respond. While conducting my player evaluations, where I give my players feedback on their progress and talk about areas of improvement, one of my players asked me if she could start a team Bible study. While I knew this girl was a Christian, I was startled at first. She was quiet and kept to herself. I told her that she could present this to the players and whoever wanted to participate could do so before practice. While I still was unsure whether she would actually move forward on this, a few days later she fulfilled her word by going before the team and asking if they wanted to take part in a team Bible study.

About a week prior to this, she was injured in a game. After our trainers and a doctor assessed her, they all felt it was nothing major and anticipated she would be back on the field soon. The day after she spoke to the team about starting a team Bible study she had to follow up with an orthopedic surgeon. It was at this appointment where she found out she had torn her ACL and would miss the remainder of the season. At one moment this young girl chose to step out in faith and start a Bible study with her team, while at the very next moment she was facing season-ending knee surgery.

In the case of Nehemiah, God moved forward through the challenges he faced and brought a great victory. Not only was the wall built, but also those Jewish exiles that returned to their land made an agreement to obey the commands of God as they once again occupied His holy city Jerusalem.

While the story with my player still awaits a final chapter, I know that, just like Nehemiah, if she remains faithful to what God has called her to do she will see a great victory in the end.

We all need to remember that we serve a faithful God and when we place our faith and trust in Him, we can have the same confidence Nehemiah did that He will fulfill His plans through our lives,

“So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:15, 16).

How Strong Is Your Faith?

by BJ Rudge, Ph. D.

Writing to Christians who were facing persecution under Roman emperor Nero, the Apostle Peter reminded them that trials are a way to test the genuineness of their faith:

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7).

The truth of this verse was evident during the life of Kayla Mueller. You may know that Kayla was an American humanitarian aid worker who, in August of 2013, was taken captive by ISIS while in Syria. Until her reported death in February 2015, Kayla had to endure torture, verbal abuse, forced slave labor, and repeated rapes by ISIS’ top leader. Despite these unimaginable trials, Kayla never wavered in her faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, recent reports by other hostages who escaped or were released by ISIS document how she remained strong in her faith. As reported by ABC News,

“… her fellow hostages say she never surrendered hope, she selflessly put the welfare of fellow captives above her own and she even stood up to executioner ‘Jihadi John’ to defend her Christian faith.”

Kayla’s steadfast commitment to Jesus Christ should be a challenge to all of us to determine the strength of our own faith. Yes, we will most likely never have to experience what she went through, but when the trials of life come our way, will we have the same strength she did to stand up and proclaim the name of Jesus Christ.

The book of Hebrews reminds us that a great cloud of witnesses surround us (Hebrews 12:1).  One of those witnesses is Kayla Mueller. While her race is over, as she is now in the presence of her Lord and Savior, our race is still going on. The question before us is what witness will we leave when our race ends. I pray that like Kayla we will be a witness to other believers to stand strong in their faith.

As you read the following excerpts of a letter that Kayla sent her parents while in captivity, ask yourself this question, “How strong is my faith?”

I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else, + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another.

None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes. I wrote a song some months ago that says, “The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left.” aka_The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength. Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God’s will we will be together soon.

Being a Catalyst for TRUE Change

by BJ Rudge, Ph. D.

Colin Kapernick, a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, has been the focus of much discussion for the past few days. The reason has nothing to do with his abilities on the football field, but with his decision off the field to not stand during the national anthem. In a protest against racism shown towards African Americans, Colin has decided to continue to sit until he sees change in America. As he stated in an exclusive interview with NFL media, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color…  To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

His actions have certainly brought some strong responses by both those who agree and disagree. The purpose of this blog is not to add to this growing list of controversy since I can recognize, on one hand, his concern for racism and acknowledge his right to exercise his freedom; but, on the other hand, I also clearly recognize the sacrifices that both blacks and whites have made to give all Americans our freedoms and how the flag is a symbol of those sacrifices.

The bigger issue to me goes beyond individual actions to how we can be a catalyst for true change in our culture. All of us recognize the challenges that face our country from racial tension to economic hardships. But most people’s responses to them merely address the symptoms rather than the root problems. So how can we be a catalyst for true change?

My daughter has a book on the testimony of Christian NFL players. One of the chapters is on Colin Kapernick. In this chapter, Colin talks about the struggles he has had to endure in his NFL career. Seeking guidance from God in these challenges, Colin references the following verse, “You have armed me with strength for the battle; you have subdued my enemies under my feet” (Psalm18:39). In the book, Colin says that he loves this verse because, “Basically it’s saying that the Lord has given me all the tools to be successful, and I just have to go out there and do my part to uphold that.”

Just as God has supplied Colin with the tools to be successful on the field, He has also supplied each of us with the same tools to be successful off the field. He has provided us with a message that talks about how He sent His Son to set us free from our sins, and how through His Son (Jesus Christ) alone, we can be reconciled to Him. Thus, as brother and sisters in Christ, we no longer see each other divided by race and ethnicity, but united together by the person of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26-29).

If we want true change, then we need to stop looking to the ways of the world, and look to the only One who can bring true change. When we live out our faith for Him in love and authenticity, and spend time with Him everyday on our knees in prayer, then we will see true change. So whether you are a quarterback for the 49ers, a stay at home mom, a person who works in a mill, or a student in school, you can be a catalyst for change.