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Considering the Cost of Biblical Leadership

The cost of Bibilical Leadership calls us, through God, to go deeper and wider with Him… are we willing to surrender our way to the Father? It means a willingness to have our Father intervene, even to the extent of having life plans messed up/crushed/remade with the Master’s Hand. This remolding process can make biblical leaders vulnerable, take what others would consider risks, and even face failure of being misunderstood, sometimes rejected. Understanding stewardship as a precept to biblical leadership includes practicing discipleship and trusting real ministry is lived on the Jericho Road.

I’ve presented various topics here under Ministry Development to CEF staff across the USA. Most of these topics and/or articles can also be found at the Stewardship series. Today, I’d like to present some principles and practices of biblical leadership.

Choosing to walk this road, although easy to change your mind before taking those first steps, the Jericho Road is a front-porch view into the life of the poor, brokenness, stagnation, and loneliness of others. It allows us to see and experience the Father’s Heart. Consider the following Bible passages in understanding the cost to biblical leadership:

  1. Commitment: Luke 9:23, 59, 62 Following Christ, not turning back, learn and discipling others
  2. Collaboration: Luke 10:1-23 Jesus taught/conveyed His plan for real ministry and indigenous leadership
  3. Compassion: Luke 10:30 Good Samaritan teaching on true sacrifice for the hurting and needy
  4. Crying out: Luke 18:35 Jesus healing the blind
  5. Transforming the marketplace: Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus had his heart saved and changed which transformed his city
  6. Faith: Hebrews 11:30 Trust is experienced by doing what God has said: bringing down walls of Jericho
  7. Prayer: Luke 10:5-6 Praying in the manifold presence of Christ with His blessing, peace, and the atmosphere of God’s Kingdom in cities, communities, and homes where you minister.

Practices of Biblical Leaders

  • Has a vision worth following

A leader needs a vision which lasts beyond today. There needs to be an element of faith and risk to motivate followers. The vision needs to take people somewhere they want to go, but aren’t sure how to get there. It needs to be a “bigger” reality than people are experiencing today. (Do I have to make that point for Jesus?)

  • Willing to lead the way

A leader who is easy to follow is willing to go first. They pave the way. (Jesus went first. He suffered first. He challenged the tired, worn out system first. Others could follow, because He led by example.)

  • Remains steadfast with integrity

A leader stays the course and keeps his or her character in tact. Followers know they can depend on the, resolve, strength and fortitude of the leader during the darkest hours. (Jesus remained sinless all the way to the Cross!)

  • Displays grace and patience

A leader extends grace and forgiveness when mistakes are made. They pace the team until the team is ready for greater challenges. They equip the team with the proper training and resources to complete assignments. (Jesus gave His disciples, and everyone He met, much grace.)

  • Challenges followers with high expectations

People want to follow someone who sets the bar for achievement high. There’s no intrinsic value in following easy-to-attain goals. (Jesus pushed the disciples beyond what they thought they could do. Recall Peter walking on water?)

  • Practices consistent humility as a servant

A leader should display humility and be a servant of others, especially those he or she is supposed to be leading. (Jesus washed the disciples feet.)

  • Places energy into others

A leader consistently invest in other people. They give real authority and responsibility as they encourage and develop other leaders. They even replace themselves in key positions. (Jesus sent the disciples out and He’s left His church in our hands.)

Principles of Servant Leadership

If you value people in the city, then you will make intentional decisions to build long-term empowering relationships.  Intentionally doing so will allow you to cross cultural barriers and build community by listening to others, investing stewardship of resources, while also enriching the life/testimony of the surrendered servant.  Knowing (awareness) of people within the city helps cultivate an appreciation of their diversity, which enriches and broadens their own visions, ideas, and ministries.  A servant leader will make deliberate decisions to ensure commitment to growth of indigenous resources as well as the foresight, through prayer, in the utilization of those resources.

Invest in people. Pour yourself into those that God sends your way by taking what He poured into you and reinvest it into others.  It may take fifteen years to develop indigenous urban leadership.  Empathy is absolutely necessary in healing and implementation of effective and sustainable ministry within a community. Trust built through this healing process can provide opportunity for mentoring/discipleship of city kids towards becoming world changers in their community and beyond.

Leaders who pray with their city: A Closing Prayer

Gracious Lord, the Lord that invites us to be honored enough to work alongside others through the help of Jesus Christ, the creative God who created all creatures on earth including the tall pine trees in our state. The creative God who created diversity among humankind on earth, where there are all kinds of shapes, sizes, ages, skin colors, and languages.

You sent Your Son to earth, to Galilee, a small marginalized town on the outskirts of a major city, this earth, where He saved us from our sins. Jesus, you were born into a human body among a marginalized and oppressed nation, and from there you started your ministry to those that were on the outskirts – the women, the nonreligious, the people that nobody considered to be important. There are so many which we reach and love called “city kids”, those we are allowed to minister through Child Evangelism Fellowship.

We call and depend on the power of Your resurrection, the entire world and mankind of the changed/unchanged. Thank God you have blessed us to live and be stewards to your creation, allowing us to realize Your Kingdom on earth. Fully realizing, we will be judged not by the amount of power, prestige, and bank accounts, but where we will be judged rightly on how we treat mankind (as children and poor) on this earth by our love.

Footnote Disclaimer: As a result of my brain surgery (Sep.17, 2021) my speech and writing have been affected. During future blogs, I’ll try for others to edit my drafts to provide clarity and understanding for my message. Thank you for your patience. Subscribe: johneblake.blog (button)

To Be Rather Than to Seem

As I prepare to teach, train, and speak to students this weekend, desiring to be missionary interns this summer across North Carolina, I’m reminded of a growing revelation in my own spiritual development. Such deep insights from God become acutely visible when on the coast or in the mountains of our state. As creator of all things, God’s creation from the atom to the entire universe displays His creativity and ultimately demonstrates that He is the creator of creativity! He also created me and you. What He creates has purpose, perfection, and destiny to bring change to our world. He created us to Become. Walk in becoming your destiny. Worshiping our Creator: It’s about expressing what His Kingdom looks like on earth and making our world a better place with the gifts He has given. – Matthew 16:19

I’ve also learned that the Devil can only copy, mimic, and counterfeit the real or authentic which God has created. There is also nothing original that the Devil might place in your path of life used to distract you or cause you to stumble. So, though we know these things and are followers of Jesus Christ, here is the tension. We are easily distracted and many times see things in the past: successes, failures, and sin in our lives. God is about creating the new in our lives — our destiny.

The Bible teaches us in Isaiah 43:18-19 Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

And in – Philippians 1:6, 3:14 …But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

God’s Love and Faithfulness for You is True: I can tell you with 100% authority that this true, no matter what you remember or feel crippled by your past based on Jeremiah 31:3 I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

God has a Plan for You: I can tell you with 100% authority that you have a destiny for greatness as a world changer based on Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare (peace & Prosperity) and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Developing Your Faith

Here are effective strategies for developing your faith to believe and live as a world changer:

Prayer, Envisioning, and Journaling

Pray seeking to be in the manifold presence of Christ, enjoying, listening, and receiving His downloads. Envisioning or imagining what could be, needs to be, and God wants you to do. Then use a devise you’re most likely to use to Journal everything you receive each day. Look for these experiences to manifest as you daily follow these three disciplines:

  • Daily fine-tuning to receive
  • Recognize Father’s Voice
  • Finding Peace in Transformation
  • Cultivate Visions, Rhythms, Patterns
  • Gain confidence in things received by Faith

Creative God has the designs, we are the receptacles for them… Becoming God’s destiny for you is the Creation!

Your values, heart, and vision matter to city kids and youth

Having Godly Values

Why are core values important?

  1. Values provide the foundation for formulating goals and giving direction for ministry.
  2. Most strategic plans fail because values are not articulated when starting the process.
  3. Conflict arises often due to differing values.

What are ‘Key Questions’ in determining your core values?

  1. What is your ministry and/or organization supposed to be doing?
  2. What do you get passionate about?
  3. How do you invest your time and money?
  4. For what do you (your ministry) want to be remembered?
  5. Are these values action oriented?
  6. Does your (ministry’s) action or behavior demonstrate or address these core values?

Having a Godly Vision

What is Vision?

  1. Desires fruitful outcomes in ministry initiatives
  2. Describes what the ministry will look like in five years
  3. Develops a mental image that motivates people

Where do you connect with a Godly Vision?

  1. Catch God’s perspective on reality
  2. Recognize God’s desire for all people
  3. The flow of God’s redemptive purposes
  4. Seek God’s specific assignments
  5. By empowering God’s indigenous people

How can you know the vision comes from God?

  1. Listen during prayer
  2. Seek/Ask for God’s wisdom and counsel
  3. Minister with others who share the same vision
  4. Promotes faith rather than fear
  5. Motivates people to action which multiplies
  6. Requires risk-taking
  7. Glorifies God, not people

Having Godly Resources

Time: It may take fifteen years to develop indigenous urban leadership.  What are the implications when this decision is made? Are you willing to make such a commitment to the Lord for city kids?  Staying and Serving  This type of commitment is rare and not for the weak.  Will your vision be focused on making a long-term commitment?

Networking: It’s a must, biblically and practically, if you are going to survive and thrive in the city. A God-given vision will be inclusive of His Kingdom at-large.  Indigenous partners and leadership with the same vision will empower people and sustain the mission if done long-term.

Favor: As you labor faithfully and consistently, look for people, programs, and pulpits within the community that will supply the needs and gain ownership of the vision. Look in the city.  There is a vault of resources that cannot be found anywhere else.

God is saying “Go” to the people… yet in the omni-matrix of God, He is saying “Come” join me in the city where I AM at work. I AM here. It is good. Also… if people are empowered and equipped, they already have all the resources needed to solve their own problems. We need to stop trying solve people’s problems and issues,

John E. Blake & Dr. John Perkins

Look for Part 7 soon How To Implement a City Kids Strategy, which will wrap up this series of articles on Developing a Heart for the City and City Kids

How would you define success in ministry to city kids… actually, any children and youth? Does your adopted measurement impact your strategic plan? Does it help sustain and scale your organization beyond the current ministry year? Actively matching your organization’s purpose with how you show up and what you do on a weekly and annual basis is critical for success and defining success.

Forgiveness, redemption, and resolution are key components towards success which provides real hope and power while ministering in the city. John E, Blake

I’ve learned that real success begins within your own heart, acknowledging its brokenness and dependence on the Lord for Godly forgiveness, redemption, and resolutions in our own lives. Only then can we proclaim and live these truths, putting them into action, among the people we minister to. Stay with me, I want to share how I’ve learned to define success in ministry and specifically with city kids and their communities. I believe there are at least 3 Godly aspects when bringing resolutions to the complexities of ministry to the poor, marginalized, and distance from God.

Forgiveness and redemption

First, let me provide a list of personal and direct ministry benefits from forgiveness and redemption. At the end, wait for it, I’ll provide my list of what success looks like, in the natural, when ministering in the city and with city kids. Please offer your comments after reading as well, thanks!

Redemption from sin gives hope, salvation, and empowers us:

  1. For the hopeless conditions of children we see and teach
  2. For our negative attitudes towards the difficulty of city ministry
  3. As workers, we need to be reminded of the Lord’s work in our lives
  4. To confess our negative attitudes and repent
  5. To ask the Lord to do whatever He chooses to develop a heart within us for the city and city kids
  6. To carry the same message of redemption to city kids and allow God to affect the change that no person, program, or government plan can do

Resolution brings the game plan for solution with mutuality and respect:

In developing a heart for the city you and your ministry organization must have a firm resolve.  This is a passionate resolve, which prays and labors until a biblical and systemic plan is birthed and confirmed. It’s a mutual plan to accurately address and solve spiritual and social issues impacting the culture and lives of the people whom you minister alongside. This strategic plan is framed around three words:

Values – describes who we are and what we really believe. Core values are consistent, passionate, biblical, and distinctive convictions that determine our priorities, influence our decisions, drive our ministry and are demonstrated by our behavior.  Our real core values are exposed in the way we minister, to whom we minister, and also where we minister.  James 1:26-2:1

Vision – describes where we are going. It’s like shooting arrows beyond yourself – Psalm 127 “having a higher expectation than where you are… It’s projecting a vision for success and a heart for God… if you can dunk the ball at 9 foot, then raise the rim.” There are many applications in life, but the idea is to clarify and cast vision of where your organization is going.

Resources – describes what we will use and how we will use it to reach, achieve, and/or resolve the task of fulfilling the vision, which has been cast.

In part 3 the verse Psalm 11:3 was mentioned regarding …when the foundations are being destroyed… there is a biblical answer to repair and resolution to this social darkness.

  • Speak Truth with real applications for living
  • Pray (de-hijack prayer) for transformation not problems
  • Activate the Gospel (de-colonize and clarify)
  • Church active and community-centered
  • Communities and schools pastored:
    • Nurture, love, reconcile for them to flourish
    • Biblical principles are active and evident
    • Spiritual and natural atmospheres change
    • Systemic poverty and issues eliminated
    • Keys of the Kingdom are leveraged for change

Next Part 6 will articulate deeper and offer examples of Godly values, vision, and resources like: Networking, Staying and Serving, Risk-taking and others.

Rejection and Realization

From a systemic and spiritual perspective, I will attempt to reveal the roots of despair and decline in marginalized, resourced-challenged, or poor communities (whichever categorical term works for you). Due to attitudes of condemnation, misplaced compassion, and frankly, ignorance, a sick, broken, generational system of living in hopelessness has taken root.

What’s the Problem: God – Not God Himself, but a rejection of God by indigenous people of these communities and those in power who control and manage these communities. As a result, deteriorating social and economic conditions prevail. Systemic poverty, in every area of life, becomes the norm. Thus, their struggle, our struggle, even collectively our struggle is not only in the natural, but a spiritual battle, which needs a supernatural solution. (Ephesians 6:12)The struggle should not be with our fellow man.

Poverty in every area of life is the result when God is rejected (examples: Nigeria, Europe, US inner cities, etc.). Where do you see this in our own city? What’s wrong with the pictures portrayed by city, neighborhood, or school officials in your city? (example: movie – “A Christmas Carol” and other media depicting poverty). Poverty is often a source of alienation; inequity breeds anger; destructive survival and negative behavior pull families down.  Satan’s plan is very effective!  Christians must view this condition with the mind of Christ.

Spiritual poverty produces hardship in every area of life.  Especially for children and the poor.  Are they not the most vulnerable?  There must be a realization that unless city kids are affected by the Gospel and change begins early in life, the probability is that they will be pulled into the same generational cycle of crime, poverty, and ungodliness.

Regarding your ministry with children, respond to the following: State your purpose in ministry? For what purpose do you live/exist?  Luke 10:27-28 State your most important cause – Something that’s worth dying for… (your values and passions)  Do you have a cause?  State the ways you connect with kids – Nurture and care for the children you teach; equip them for living; hug them; build them up on the inside; most of their outsides are spoiled.  How do city kids respond to you?

Next Part 5: Forgiveness, Redemption, and Resolution with Godly Values, Vision, and Resources

This is the 3rd part of a series on Developing a Heart for the City and City Kids. Part 1 (below) began on April 16, 2019. There will be a total of seven parts to complete this presentation and discussion. Additional topics and resources related to teaching city kids can be found at CEF Durham and The Center of Light as well as this blog.

As I asked in part 2, How would you or will you respond? Perhaps a better question for a better discussion would be, How do you respond when confronted about social, systemic, and spiritual issues in the city? How have your responded in the past. Civic and Christian leaders have grappled with these questions and issues for many years. We, in CEF, have talked and strategized over these things for the past 20-30 years. Some progress was made towards being more reflective, in our literature, of the multi-ethnic children we teach. A few changes were also made in our teaching methods, which made an impact on our teaching curriculum and teacher training of the main CEF ministry programs — Good News Clubs and 5-Day Clubs.

Typical responses

How have your responded in the past? Here are a few general, but typical responses to the needs within the city.

Condemnation: Having attitudes, which say, ‘They deserve what they get.  Why don’t they get a job?  Well, Jesus even said that the poor will always be with us.  How can they live like that?  Don’t they care?  Look how dirty those kids are?

Cultural Chasm: Feelings of alienation pulling you back from the city. This is a humanly cultivated apprehension because of being culturally distant and different from those in the inner city. Cultural competencies are weak.

Curiosity: Attracted to a fabricated danger, risk-taking adventure, it’s cool, or a self-centered glorification by going into the ‘hood’ and doing good deeds. Picture-taking for personal benefit and conversations.

Compassion: God-centered and inspired attitude, which causes your heart to love, care, reach out, hang out, and be enriched by those in the city.

Heart reflections

Your responses are a starting point, now reflect on what your heart allows you to see. To develop a heart for the city and city kids, you must look at…

Broken Lives: Have you seen any difficulty loving the people of the city?  Increasingly, the poor have become nameless, faceless statistics.  The poor are no longer our next-door neighbors, nor do they sit in the pew beside us. They may be seen as the object of our outreach, but not as valuable, powerful, world-changers within their community… or our friends.

Neglected Families: Have you seen pain in the eyes of children? Have you seen children of the inner-city being neglected?  Do you appreciate the reason why? Many youth must care and defend themselves and their siblings, provide safety for their families, experience the lack of adequate life skills, yet have lots of street smarts, and are victims of few on-going programs to nurture and equip them for healthy living and decision making.

Negligent City Sectors: Have you seen the results of negligent parents, schools, churches, communities, ministries, and government agencies? When these city sectors are also broken, inadequate, and unsure of how to take action, you have a recipe for disaster and devastation. When evangelicals left the city both physically and spiritually, the turf was conceded to government agencies, liberal agendas, ignorant and irrelevant churches, broken families, etc. The salt and light, Jesus talked about, was mostly removed from the city… and the enemy devoured it.

…if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?… Psalm 11:3-7

What are the foundations broken and why?

  • Family broken — Too much selfishness and arrogance
  • Religion broken — Too little passion to help the community
  • Schools broken — Lack of wisdom
  • Communities broken — Fear
  • Society broken — Darkness

In this day and age, given the context of need in our cities, given the separation by race, culture, politics, and social issues that exists… given our history in this country — what would Jesus have us do?

Coming in part 4: Rejection and Realization a Reality Check

Go deeper with a few suggested books:
1. In His Steps by Charles Sheldon
2. Let Justice Roll Down by John M. Perkins
3. Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton
4. One Blood by John M. Perkins
5. Reconstructing the Gospel by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

If Jesus were walking with us today and asked, “What do you see?  Do you see the need, the depths of despair, and pain?”  The Lord would be asking you to look, where?  How would you respond?

Biblical Response

According to the Bible, the heart of God responds to the disadvantaged with active compassion.  This is the heart of pure/true religion.  Compassion is all about connecting with the helpless condition of the hurting world.  The spiritual and physical needs of this world are great.  Look around, where are the greatest needs?  Who is suffering the most?  If you are called to Christ, you are called to compassion.  What is your response?

Demonstrating justice, compassion, and humility is required

Only through the Power of God, the Word of God, and our intentional decision to practice the Heart of God can we develop a heart for the city and its people.  Developing a heart for the city and its people means being called to Christ and called to compassion.

…be doers of the Word and not hearers only… but a doer who acts… [control your tongue, care for the afflicted, keep oneself unstained by the world, show no partiality… this true religion]

James 1:23-2:13

Jesus said the people in cities and villages were ‘harassed, weary, or distressed’ meaning: to be flayed open, in hopeless despair, thrown down, to be at the end of oneself – the recurring effects of those who are ‘harassed’ can be pictured as a rock is thrown onto a pond, which results in a seemingly never-ending cycle of ripples and rings, thus illustrating the downward spiral of discouragement and hopelessness felt by the poor and disenfranchised.  Jesus was moved with compassion.  He saw beyond external appearances into the hearts of the people.  He saw that they were unprotected, unsaved, and unguided. Jesus said to pray that God’s people will enter into the pain and suffering of those harassed.

…When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd…

Matthew 9:35-38

Your Response

When you walk down the streets of our cities, when you drive threw neglected, despairing, destitute neighborhoods, when you see crowds of people…  How deeply do you see?  Are you moved with compassion or revulsion?  How would you respond? It is possible for you to do the right thing for the wrong reason or to do the wrong thing for the right reason.  How will you respond?

Look at the statistics:

Ray Bakke reminds us in A Theology as Big as the City, “The frontier of missions has shifted to the cities. The greatest number of unreached people is no longer geographically distant but rather culturally distant. You must realize that the nations of the world are coming to the city.“  Today in a new millennium, missions has dramatically shifted in many ways, including from safe to dangerous, from receptive to hostile people groups, from villages and jungles to urban/city jungles.  The 2000 U.S. Census revealed: 55-80% of the country’s population lives and will be living by 2050 in metro/urban areas. U.S. now reports, as of 2017, 75-85% of families with children are living in the largest US cities and urban metro areas.

Look at the trends:

Everything from music to fashion, language and politics is dominated by urban trends, says Bob Bufford of Leadership Networks. Sociologists, market analysis, and government officials pay close attention to what happens in urban America. What happens there will influence what happens everywhere.

Look at the task:

There is no easy, painless or inexpensive way to minister in the city today. Urban ministry is nearly always cross-cultural and calls us beyond ourselves into uncharted territory (Psalm 107:23-24). But city ministry is critical! D.L. Moody said, “Water runs downhill, and the highest hills are the great cities. If we can stir them, we shall stir the whole country.”

Look at the Word:

To practice obedience to the Word of God and participate in contemporary missions, we must go inside the city. We must cross, not only an ocean and a continent, but the street with the changeless Gospel.  The entire Scriptures, including Jesus earthly ministry, demonstrates this imperative.

Look at the Church:

Where is the Church in regard to this mission field?  Do our methods, ideas, and attitudes really impact today’s urban kids?  Do they produce devoted disciples for Christ?  In Dare to Love the Ghetto, Keith Phillips tells about one particular church, “They took five or ten black boys from the inner-city for a week of camping experience, stuffed them full of the gospel, meticulously recorded each decision and then pitched them back into the ghetto with these words of comfort: God bless you! We’ll send follow-up materials by mail. Hope everything works out.”

How would you respond to the above question: What do you see…? In the next part of Developing a Heart for the City, to be published, consider your responses by these questions:

1. Can you see the Heart of the Father?

2. What does the Bible say about reaching cities?

3. How deeply do you see and is your heart moved for city kids?

John E. Blake

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