Counterfeit Christianity

by Bill Rudge

We hear much about signs, wonders and miracles but very little about the need for discernment.

As a new Christian, I did not expect to uncover deception in churches and ministries such as I found in researching the realm of the occult. While I have witnessed genuine miracles and prophecies, there is often too much “flesh” and “fraud” being propagated in Jesus’ name. Consequently, as a new convert, I quickly learned the importance of discernment and integrity.

For instance, a popular evangelist who amazed young and old alike with his knowledge of Bible prophecy had a part in my coming to faith in Christ. A short time later he left his wife, ran off with his secretary, became an alcoholic and embezzled ministry funds, which resulted in prison time. Early experiences like this – that could have easily turned me back to the world – actually proved to be of profound benefit to my life and ministry. I had a crucial choice to make: Do I build my life on man or on God? I chose to build my life and ministry on Jesus Christ and His Word – and that has made all the difference.

In stark contrast, a pastor who had significantly contributed to my accepting Christ, has faithfully served Him all the days of his life. His example has been an inspiration to many.

Then there was the popular Christian singing group who performed at a large camp meeting I attended as a young believer. They sang, cried and moved many to tears with their songs and testimonies. Shortly thereafter, this same group went secular and began performing some raunchy songs. It was hard for me at that time to understand how they could sing about Jesus with such passion and so quickly turn, performing songs that led youth and adults down a path away from Him. It was not surprising to discover that even while on their Christian circuit, they had many illicit relations with girls and women who idolized them.

As a young Christian I had to make yet another important decision: Will I be influenced by surface appearance and emotionalism and use my position of leadership for personal favors or will I follow the path of wisdom and discernment? I chose to seek wisdom and discernment – and that has made all the difference.

Prior to a three-week mission to Mexico, God had impressed on Karen and me to go to Bible college. Upon our return from the mission trip, preparations were underway for our move when a so-called prophetess prophesied that we were to go back to Mexico. I said to her, “I’m still a relatively new Christian and do not know the Word very well yet, but I do know that if God told me to go to Bible college, if God told me to buy a mobile home, if God enabled us to find the very last mobile home lot on which we could put our mobile home in the city, then God wants me there. And that’s where I’m going!”

I had to decide: Do I follow the voice of someone telling me God’s will for my life, or do I follow God’s Word and what His Spirit has led me to do? I chose to follow what I knew to be the clear direction of the Lord – and that has made all the difference.

While attending Bible college, I worked at a window factory with several other students who had been Christians much longer than I. However, it didn’t take long to see the shallowness of their commitment. They mocked others, swore, used vulgar expressions and stole small items from work. So as a young Christian I had to make yet another crucial choice: Do I follow the crowd and live a compromised Christianity or do I, by God’s grace and power, live a life of integrity and discipline? I chose a life of integrity and have sought to honor the Lord in every aspect of my life – and that has made all the difference.

Many times I have reflected back on how ineffective my life and ministry could have been had I not chosen to follow the direction of the Lord during those crucial decisions. But because I obeyed God’s voice, He has produced tremendous fruit through our lives, done the impossible through our ministry and blessed us greatly.

What Then Shall We Do?

Over the years I have encountered in various “Christian” groups: false teachings, erroneous prophecies, faked healings, counterfeit miracles, financial misappropriation, lies, gossip, sexual immorality, drug and alcohol usage, and other un-Christlike behaviors. Some of this could be explained as weakness of the flesh; however, many were using the name of Jesus for personal gain while fleecing the people of God who, because of their lack of discernment and biblical knowledge, enabled them to do so. I have encountered countless people who said they rejected Christianity because of fakery and hypocrisy; for some theirs was a lame excuse, for others a true stumbling block. Turning anyone from the Gospel or hindering someone in their walk with Christ because of our example is something we must all, as believers, strive to avoid.

While I believe in the supernatural power of God and the gifts of the Spirit, I have witnessed too much imitation, manipulation, even demonic phenomena in Jesus’ name. Truly, the Church needs the power of God’s Spirit today – not the flesh or the counterfeit, but the authentic moving of God’s Spirit.

Does fakery and hypocrisy practiced in Jesus’ name mean we ought to reject Him and Christianity? To the contrary, His Word warns about such people and practices. You can be certain that those who resort to deception and manipulation will be held accountable for the Lord “will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

I have spent more than two thirds of my lifetime on an amazing adventure of discovering the truth, reality and faithfulness of the God of the Bible. Scripture encourages believers to be Bereans (Acts 17:10-12) – exercising discernment and examining all things by God’s Word. Imitation and counterfeit should motivate us all the more to earnestly seek the true and the genuine. Without a doubt, only Jesus Christ and Scripture have the answers to life and eternity.

There are some who use the name of Christ for personal gain or to merchandise the Gospel, and others are as deceived as the people who follow them; but there are many more genuine followers of Christ. Countless pastors, missionaries, chaplains and believers love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and strength. Their beliefs and lifestyles – both in the public eye and behind the scenes, the fruit of their ministries and personal sacrifices validate their commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the midst of a corrupt and wicked world, an increasing number of believers desire to live committed and disciplined lives of purity and righteousness. Instead of “liberalism” they walk in obedience; rather than “legalism” they are motivated by love and a desire to honor their Lord. Not perfect in themselves, but relying on the grace of the Perfect One, they press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of them (Philippians 3:12). They will be found faithful when Christ returns and receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10). How about you?

Finally: Each believer should choose to develop a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, know the voice of His Spirit, honor His Word, and walk before Him and the world in love, truth, discipline and integrity.

 

A Lament for Hugh

by Bill Rudge

flowerPsalm 103:15-18 accurately states:

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

Hugh may have had a “funtastic” life but I would not want his eternity. He may have been proud about breaking down moral barriers and mocking God’s commands but I am certain he is now humbled in the presence of the One who allowed him the temporary freedom to make his own choices and even live his sensual lifestyle – which influenced multitudes.

“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied round his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:1, 2).

Hugh may have been proud of “decontaminating the notion of premarital sex” but I wonder now that he has a “perspective from eternity” how he feels about all the STDs, ruined marriages, broken homes, shattered lives, exploited women, abortions … he helped unleash on the U.S. and world.

In contrast to seduction to lustful indulgences, Hugh would have been better off to be like Job who said:

“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” (Job 31:1). David asserted, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing” (Psalm 101:3).

Hugh may have temporarily enjoyed sex with over a thousand women and the opulence of being a multi-millionaire but how will he fare for eternity. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus has some relevance to Hugh:

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.” (Luke 16:19-25).

As a person who had all the pleasures this world had to offer as a youth, I can honestly say that nothing or no one has fulfilled my life and satisfied me more than coming to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Living for Christ has been an amazing adventure (and at times very challenging and difficult) and has provided tremendous hope and anticipation for an eternal inheritance. Only He fulfilled my never-ending search for meaning and purpose. The God who created and designed me has given me greater peace and joy than anything this world ever offered. Since coming to know Christ I have never desired to return to my former lifestyle forsaking all I have gained in Christ. I now understand what the psalmist meant when he said,

“Besides You, I desire nothing on earth” (Psalm 73:25 NAS), and “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1).

My advice after you finish reading this article is to turn off your television, walk away from the Internet, silence your cell phone, discard your pornography and get away to seriously ponder your choices and lifestyle – and the eventual (sometimes immediate) and eternal consequences.

Instead of following in the footsteps of someone who will lead you down an eventual path of disease, devastation, death and destruction, follow the One who promises true and lasting righteousness, peace and joy.

David, the greatest king in Israel’s history who was forgiven of a sordid past, confidently stated,

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).

Write for a free copy of Bill Rudge’s insightful book, Overcoming Sexual Immorality. Send your mailing address to BRM, P.O. Box 108, Sharon, PA 16146.

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference.

 

As a sophomore in high school, Bill Rudge was assigned Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” to read. Bill was a rebellious soul and the poem caused him to start thinking about taking the road “less traveled” rather than yield to the peer pressure of his friends. Even though Bill had not yet come to know the LORD, God was preparing him even then to learn how to stand alone.

Life Lessons

by Bill Rudge

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Photo by Bill Rudge

I had just turned 25 when I started this ministry in 1977. In those early days, I was told by ministers, older than myself, that the years would pass quickly. They were right. The ministry will turn 40 at the beginning of next month. Over the years I have learned many important lessons through experience, observation and reflection. The wisdom gained is far more valuable than the wealth of this world.

In length of years, I have been given the opportunity to see several generations and have lived what feels like multiple “lifetimes”:

From being a middle child with four brothers and one sister to being a fitness and martial arts instructor; from being a rebellious teenager to becoming a committed Christian; from marrying Karen (I was 18 and she was 17) to the blessings a few years later of two children, followed by 11 grandchildren; from hitchhiking across the country to graduating from Bible college; from working as a youth pastor and training with Youth for Christ to starting this multi-faceted ministry; from producing radio broadcasts and writing books to traveling the world on adventurous missions and speaking engagements…and so much more.

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Path at Bill Rudge Ministries

Life experience and lessons have been plentiful. Some of the insights and wisdom gained along the way:

  • We are not here by random chance – we are, rather, a unique creation designed for a special purpose.
  • We may think we are the masters of our fates, but God is the determiner of our destinies.
  • Sometimes the Lord seems to “hideHis face and be shrouded in silence. But those who seek Him with all their hearts will find Him and discover His reality.
  • The wisest and most courageous decision I ever made was to give my life to Jesus Christ.
  • In spite of dangers and even life threatening circumstances over the years, the Lord has fulfilled His promise that my life would not be taken until His purpose is fulfilled.
  • His path is rarely easy – many times it takes us through rugged terrain, dark woods, deep valleys, barren deserts and isolated wildernesses – but He is always faithful and the obstacles really do make us stronger.
  • In God’s time and way all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
  • The Lord has been faithful in the past, therefore I can trust Him with my future.
  • When there seems to be no hope, I turn to the only One who can give hope.
  • More important than trying to change our circumstances is changing our attitude by trusting the Lord in the midst of them.
  • Honor the Lord in the valley and through the wilderness – when your trial or test is over you will be glad you trusted Him. Doubting and complaining are dead ends.
  • With God-infused determination and discipline, we can choose to never give up whatever the challenge.
  • Half-committed people are most miserable; those committed to Jesus Christ with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength experience the abundant life (despite circumstances).
  • The four most important things in life are faith, family, friends and fitness.
  • Building my life and ministry on Scripture, with the leading of His Spirit, and desiring to honor the Lord in every aspect of my life, along with fasting and prayer when facing life’s impossibilities, have resulted in amazing victories.
  • Handing over our lives, time, money, families and dreams allows God to give them back many times over in unexpected ways.
  • Surrounding ourselves with those who are positive and encouraging inspires us to strive for excellence.
  • Spending time with children and grandchildren blesses them, but blesses us even more.
  • Live in such a way that when we depart this life we leave a legacy of love, faith and integrity.
  • We must rise above the waves of “garbage” (verbal assaults…) that come against us in our lives or they will drown us.
  • Sometimes you must stand up and defend your integrity; other times the best solution is to let the Lord fight your battle. Pray for discernment.
  • Be quick to forgive those who wrong you and love those who despise you – for Christ has forgiven you.
  • If we humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord, He will exalt us in due time; those who exalt themselves before others will eventually be humbled.
  • You can willingly choose to change your diet and lifestyle now, or one day you may be forced to with little or no choice.
  • The longer we walk the path of poor health principles the farther the road back to regain our health.
  • Fear (reverence) God, keep His commandments and live by biblical health principles – they will be life to your spirit and health to your body and mind.
  • At the beginning of every new decade I review my nutritional protocol and get even more disciplined to compensate for the aging process and to maintain my energy and vitality for the next 10 years.
  • The word retirement is not in my vocabulary.
  • So much of life is wasted on worry, fear, doubt, impatience, complaining, jealousy, envy, bitterness, revenge, lust and greed. How much better to develop the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  • Be a wise steward of your family, funds, time and talents. All believers in Jesus Christ will one day give an account of how we used the resources entrusted to our care.
  • It is better to give than to horde. Never sell or merchandise the Gospel because it was freely given.
  • Courage is not the lack of fear, but standing our ground in spite of it.
  • Faith is not the absence of doubt, but rather trusting the Lord in spite of it.
  • It is not the “giants” that defeat us but our fear of them.
  • Failure is not when we fall, but when we lay there and give up in defeat. Christ’s grace is sufficient for all our failures.
  • Spending time on our knees before the Lord enables us to stand before anyone and in any situation.
  • Be slow to speak and quick to listen – keep your mouth shut when appropriate and you will stay out of trouble.
  • Look beyond what someone says or does and consider the motives of why they said what they said or did what they did.
  • Do not envy what someone else has or does – materialism and success never truly satisfy and soon fade like spring flowers.
  • We cannot be experts in everything. The wise surround themselves with trustworthy people who are skilled in areas of need and then delegate responsibility to them.
  • Remember those who have helped us along life’s journey. Remember to thank them.
  • The key to many of the successes experienced in my life and ministry can be directly traced to faithful prayer intercessors and ministry supporters behind the scenes.
  • An attitude of gratitude multiplies happiness; it changes our focus from fretting over what we do not have to appreciating all we do have.
  • Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior means never having to fear standing before Him as Judge.
  • Do not attempt to manipulate God into what you want or think He should be, but discover Who He is by His Word and Spirit and what He requires of you.
  • Instead of determining what we want God’s will to be for our lives (and seeking to coerce Him to fulfill it), let us desire His will, unwavering in our commitment to accomplish it. In the end, our lives will far exceed what we could ever think or imagine.
  • I have met many who, in the face of death, were remorseful for wasted years, but none at the end of their lives who regretted serving Jesus Christ.
  • Live every day as though it were your last day on this planet. One day it will be.
  • Always be prepared to meet your Maker. Many who plan to get right with God later die in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.
  • What we see is temporal but what we cannot see is eternal. The study of biblical prophecy provides hope for the future, creates anticipation of the Lord’s return and instills a desire for Christ’s eternal kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy.

There are many more wonderful truths the Lord has taught me by His Word and Spirit. It is an exciting lifetime quest to know Him and learn His ways.

 

Qualities of a Successful Leader – Biblical Leadership, Part 4

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” Proverbs 29:2

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This month we conclude our series on the principles of Biblical leadership. Whether you are in the role of leader or not, this study can contribute to the growth and maturity of every Christian.

Building Confidence and Courage

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photo by Bill Rudge

One of the great challenges leaders face is encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and overcome their fears. Joshua and Caleb faced this situation when Moses sent them, and 10 others, to spy out the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb trusted God’s promise and believed He would enable them to conquer a land filled with giants and fortified cities (Numbers 14:6-9).

Following the death of Moses, Joshua was called by God for a monumental task – to lead the children of Israel into the land He had promised. In his new role as leader, Joshua empowered the Israelites with confidence and courage. How did he do this? Joshua already knew his strength came from God. He trusted the One who spoke to him the following words:

Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them (Joshua 1:2, 5-6).

Joshua did not let anyone or anything distract or deter him from obeying God. He decisively commanded the officers of the Israelites to prepare to take possession of the land:

Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’” (Joshua 1:10, 11).

Joshua’s confidence, courage and zeal for the LORD inspired the Israelites:

And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go” (Joshua 1:16).

Trusting God and stepping out in faith not only enables us to be men and women of confidence and courage, but to ignite these attributes in others.

As a coach I remind my players of their past successes, give examples of others who have been successful, provide encouragement (but not flattery), and recite their value and importance both as individuals and team members.

Counting the Cost

Leadership requires sacrifice – time, family, convenience and so on. At the same time it is crucial to create a balance in your life to avoid burn-out and provide essential time for personal growth and time with your family.

Leadership brings greater expectations and accountability. You are held to a higher standard because of a greater influential position. You become a bigger target in the spiritual battle that rages around us (Ephesians 6:12). We have an adversary who, like a roaring lion, seeks to devour every follower of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:8). Satan knows that by attacking and destroying those in leadership, he can wreak havoc. Therefore, we are vigilant every day; putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18) and steeping our minds in prayer to avoid the schemes of our enemy.

A good friend of the family, Douglas Mastriano, is a colonel in the U.S. Army. In 1991 his regiment, the Second Armored Calvary, was sent to Saudi Arabia to take the lead in the ground war offensive against Saddam Hussein’s most loyal and motivated unit, the Republican Guards. In conversation about the various battles he was involved in during this Operation, Doug told me that the key to his regiment’s success was preparation:

The training put an incredibly difficult strain on the soldiers and their families, but it did sharpen us into a well-tuned machine. Almost every month there was some sort of live-fire exercises, maneuver training, border duty, headquarter exercises, and all sorts of battle drills to prepare us for that day, which even included a deployment to Turkey. We had trained for years for this day – and we were ready for it.

Colonel Mastriano and his men were ready because of what they did to prepare. That not one man was killed in his squadron, Doug correctly attributes also, to the power of prayer. So, too, if we want to be effective leaders, we must be like the soldiers of Doug’s regiment: count the cost, prepare for what is required to accomplish what we are called to do, and saturate everything in prayer.

Providing Hope

Everyone deals with trials and adversity. Effective leaders help others find hope in this journey of life and look beyond the current circumstance to see the bigger picture.

One year I was coaching a talented team that was struggling with playing up to their potential. After losing a few games, they began to lose confidence and the hope that they could turn their season around. So at practice one day I told them about my children taking a pottery class.

The first day they were each given a lump of useless clay. The teacher said this lump of clay would eventually be turned into a beautiful vase. That is exactly what happened as each of my children molded their lump of clay into a vase which, despite a few imperfections, still sit on display in our house. I told my players that while we may not be where we want to be, we needed to keep moving forward because just like that lump of clay, our team too can become a beautiful vase.

To instill hope in others, leadership requires perseverance and forward movement. I witnessed an amazing example of this during a high school soccer game against a regional opponent. It was an important game because both teams were undefeated and tied for first place. As the game began, it became obvious our team was the better. We kept the ball on the other team’s half as we took shot after shot, and at the same time, prevented them from scoring. In the end, we won 9 to 0.

While my players provided many great moments in the game, the greatest impact was made by the opposing team’s goalkeeper. As I watched her warm up, I was impressed with her work ethic. But what especially caught my attention was how she dealt with a prosthetic leg. (After the game we learned she had lost her leg about two years earlier in a boating accident.) While I respected this girl, I wondered how she would be able to play goalkeeper. In all my years playing and coaching soccer I had never seen anyone play soccer with a prosthetic leg.

I quickly realized that what I perceived as a “limitation” for this girl was, in fact, a driving force to do something that I am sure many people told her she could never do. Here was a teenager who had every excuse to stay off the field, but instead chose to persevere regardless of the loss of her leg. What impressed me even more than the fact she played, was how she played. She did everything a goalkeeper should do: dive, catch, punt, and communicate with her teammates.

As our team began to score, putting constant pressure on the opposing team’s defense, it was clear we were going to win the game but their goalie never stopped working hard. She kept encouraging her teammates, and got back up every time she dove for a ball. At one point she made an awesome diving save that caused her prosthetic leg to come loose. Without any drama, she hobbled over to the bench, adjusted the leg and came right back out like nothing happened. Until the final whistle, she continued to give everything she could for her team. She was a true inspiration to everyone at the game and a wonderful example of perseverance.

Just like this goalie, effective leadership doesn’t make excuses. Leaders persevere through difficult times and provide encouragement and hope for those around them. The type of people God is looking for are those who, in the midst of life’s challenges, place their faith and trust in Him. Paul writes in his letter to the church in Rome:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4).

Inspiring Others

One of the most important lessons I have learned is the difference between motivation and inspiration. Motivation is an external influence while inspiration comes from within.

In my early coaching days I was taught the best way to motivate athletes was in using fear or reward. I often said, “If you don’t work hard today you’ll have to run sprints; if you do work hard, no sprints after practice.” However, trying to motivate my players through the threat/reward method resulted in having to repeatedly do so, and I eventually realized I was not getting their best efforts.

By contrast, inspiring players develops within them an internal love and passion for, and joy in, the game. This in turn dramatically impacts their overall effort as well as their ability to inspire those around them. But how is this accomplished? The following are a few ways I use to inspire my athletes:

I remind them of their roots. I began taking my seniors to our local YMCA, because it is the place that our high school program held its first game. I tell them what sacrifices were made and how far our program has come, and remind them that they need to remember the tradition they are part of and to consider what legacy they want to leave.

I share personal memories and experiences – This field was the first place I ever played a game of soccer. When I first started at age six, I played for love of the game. My focus was more on playing and scoring, rather than winning, because I enjoyed it. I encourage my team to remember the excitement they had when they first played; to never lose the love and joy they had back then.

I build a sense of community. Each member is essential in working together for the common good. To illustrate this, we have chosen the redwood tree as a symbol worn on our practice shirts. Redwoods have shallow roots, despite their extreme height, and to withstand the wind, their roots interconnect with the roots of the surrounding redwood trees. Thus, when the wind blows it is not just blowing against one tree, but against a forest!

Finally, I invest in their lives. I demonstrate in word and action that the purpose of our program goes beyond winning; it is to help build character into their lives.

The previous points are steps my coaching staff and I employ to inspire our athletes, which has enabled us to build a reputable and successful program. It has also allowed us to make a difference in their lives. A graduating player invited me to attend a banquet for being an influence in her life. She gave me a special frame with the following quote by Bob Nelson:

You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.

The apostle Paul was an effective leader because he inspired others through his example. He told them to follow him as he followed the Lord Jesus Christ. His words to the church at Rome should resonate with all of us:

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Romans 12:11).

What Then?

We desperately need effective and godly leaders today. Godly and effective leadership come through having a humble spirit, communicating effectively, possessing conviction, seeking wise counsel, building confidence and courage in others, counting the cost, offering hope in difficult times, and inspiring others. Those who lead in this manner will have a far-reaching impact for God and will be a blessing to others:

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan (Proverbs 29:2).

 

Qualities of a Successful Leader – Biblical Leadership, Part 3

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This month we continue our series on the principles of Biblical leadership. Whether you are in the role of leader or not, this study can contribute to the growth and maturity of every Christian.

Show Humility

Humility may be the key characteristic God looks for in choosing a leader.

But this is the one to whom I will look [esteem]: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word (Isaiah 66:2).

When I choose captains for my soccer team, I emphasize that an attitude of humility is essential if they want to be effective leaders. They must put the needs of their teammates ahead of their own. Their influence on the team is most evident when they embrace “servant leadership.”

This is the exact view of leadership we find in the Bible. Contrary to being arrogant and boastful, God calls us to an attitude of humility. Jesus, Himself, provides the greatest example. Although God incarnate, Jesus willingly humbled Himself to provide salvation. As the apostle Paul admonishes:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

Jesus’ humility is clearly demonstrated as He washes His disciples feet (John 13:12-17). Although the washing of feet was typically carried out by the lowest of slaves, Jesus performed this action to show His disciples that true leadership, love and strength are demonstrated when we serve others – not the other way around. Great leaders lead through humble service:

And Jesus called them [disciples] to Him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

Communicate Effectively

Nehemiah was given the task of returning to Jerusalem – which had been destroyed by the Babylonians – and rebuilding the walls of the city. After inspecting the walls, he clearly communicated to the Israelites the plans God had laid on his heart for Jerusalem:

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work (Nehemiah 2:17, 18).

As with Nehemiah, effective communication begins in laying out the vision. Vision states the purpose of why we are doing what we are doing. As a coach I understand how vital this is to build a soccer program. I know what I want to accomplish (win our region and district), but I need to go deeper and identify the why. Doing this allows my coaches and players and myself, to identify who we are as a team and why we exist as a program. The purpose statement for our program:

… is to inspire our athletes towards excellence by fostering an environment that seeks to instill conviction, passion, confidence and authentic relationships among the players.

Along with defined vision, effective communication requires a leader to set expectations, address conflicts, listen, empathize with others and be honest; saying what others may not want, but need, to hear.

A prominent church in our area suffered through the experience of poor communication. When the congregation was provided no information as to why a pastor was fired, the firestorm of rumors ensued, eventually leading to a split. The unfortunate result could have been avoided, or at least minimized, had the leadership provided proper communication.

[On a side note, great leaders respect confidentiality and do not engage in gossip and slander. As it says in Proverbs 20:19: A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.]

Possess Conviction

Daniel embodied this quality. Daniel was one of the Jews taken exile into Babylon following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Over the passage of time he was elevated in status from captive to ruler of the entire province of Babylon and chief over all the wise men (Daniel 2:48). Later, when the Medes and Persians destroyed Babylon, Daniel was again promoted to a position of prominence (Daniel 6:1-3). God was able to use Daniel in positions of great influence in his pagan world because Daniel was a man of conviction. In fact, he lived such a life of integrity that when the other advisors became jealous, they could not find any charge to bring against him, except in relation to the God he served:

Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God (Daniel 6:4, 5).

Like Daniel, people of conviction possess unwavering commitment. They know what they believe and why they believe it. They live by what they say and hold themselves accountable when they fail. They display courage as they choose to stand for what they know to be right, even if that means standing alone.

In addition to being unwavering in commitment, being authentic, and displaying courage, leaders of conviction create safeguards in their lives. The importance of this came to mind when I read the inspiring story of Charlotte Brown. In the spring of 2015, she won the bronze medal for pole vault in the state of Texas. While winning a state medal is a great accomplishment, this is not what caught my attention. Charlotte ran down the over 130 feet runway, carrying a pole about 10 feet in length, and vaulted over 11 feet in the air to win the medal – all while being blind.

Brown had to count her steps and incorporate a beeper to tell her when to plant the pole. Without these safeguards in place she would not have known where she was on the runway, which in turn would have prevented her from successfully making the vault. So, too, if we want to be leaders of conviction, we need to create safeguards that provide guidance and direction. The Word of God, prayer, and input from other believers (mentors) are some of the safeguards that can keep us on the right path.

Leaders of conviction are the exception in a day defined by compromise. But when we choose to live faithful and upright lives before God we will find ourselves, just like Daniel, being used by God in powerful ways.

Seek Wise Counsel

There is a Proverb in the Bible that says:

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).

I have applied this proverb to my coaching program. When I first took over, I realized that to make the program successful, I needed to surrounded myself with people who had the same goals and vision and principles I did. I am grateful for assistant coaches and others who help provide support, counsel, insight and guidance.

Good leaders recognize the importance of having others in their lives to provide them with encouragement and edification. They understand that as “iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Each of us should have at least one person in our lives who cares enough to encourage us when we are feeling discouraged, gently rebuke us when we need correction and provide godly wisdom as we make decisions.

If we want to be good and effective leaders, we should seek out men and women whose lives have been defined by a consistent walk with God; people, like the apostle Paul, who are examples of what it means to walk in the Lord’s will (Philippians 3:17). Let us ask that God will not only raise up a “Paul” in our lives, but also that we can be a “Paul” in the life of someone else! As the apostle Paul declared to the believers at Philippi:

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:9).

Next month we will conclude this series on Biblical Leadership as we will examine additional qualities of successful leaders.

 

The Standard of Leadership

by Bill Rudge

Speaking at a pastor’s conference I asked, “How many of you believe in God? How many of you truly believe the Bible is God’s Word? How many of you really believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? Enthusiastic affirmation followed each question.

“Then live like you believe it.” I said. “If you really believe in God and Jesus Christ and that the Bible is God’s Word, it should affect every aspect of your life. It should influence the way you live, what you say and what you do!” Sadly, however, the words, beliefs and behavior of many believers and Christian leaders today indicate they do not really believe what they profess.

Repeatedly falling into immorality and harboring secret sins or addictions not only violate scriptural guidelines but disqualifies one for leadership in the body of Christ. While God forgives as Scripture promises: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1), every Christian leader needs to review 1 Timothy 3:1-12 and Titus 1:6-9.

God holds leaders to a higher standard. James 3:1 cautions: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” If we assume leadership positions then we must also accept the responsibilities that go with them – as well as the consequences if we fail. True repentance and the fruit of genuine repentance should be visible before restoration to leadership in the body of Christ.

The focus and ultimate goal of every Christian leader’s life and ministry should be, with the help of God’s Spirit, to be conformed to the image (likeness) of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).