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Funtioning As A Leader
In The Body Of Christ

Part 1

From "I Send You Forth" by Iverna Tompkins
June 2004 at the Bold Leaders Conference
Transcribed by Jane Vaughn

     Don't let this title mislead you. While we usually think of a leader as someone with a title, an official position, or even delegated authority from some governing board, a leader is actually someone who others follow. A leader in the Body of Christ sets an example for behavior, makes decisions, takes responsibility, and honestly, seriously cares about the things that are important to God. A leader not only is the one who is visible and stands before a group, but can be one who intercedes on behalf of the obvious front person. The truth is Christians, who are hungry for more of God and are actively moving toward Him, growing in grace and in the knowledge of His ways, are leaders in the Body of Christ. Other people are watching and see that. Positive or negative, a leader is setting an example, a standard for others to reach toward in their own walk with our Lord Jesus.

From the Book of Jeremiah, we can learn a great deal about functioning as a leader in God's Kingdom here on earth. In chapter one, we discover that God has a divine plan for each one of His children. In verse 5, we learn something that is specific for Jeremiah in this context, but is equally true for each of us today. God chose Jeremiah and set him apart before he was born. Likewise, God chose you and set you apart before you were born.

Not every child of God is called to hold a position as prophet as Jeremiah was. We can see, as he ministered within the framework where God set him, Jeremiah functioned in ways other than exclusively as a prophetic voice. Throughout his 40 years of ministry, functioning primarily as a prophet under the reign of five different kings (vv.2,3), we cannot always separate what he says from "preaching." Nor can we separate what Jeremiah says prophetically from "teaching."

What Jeremiah did do consistently was to stay in order. He kept his life clear, clean, pure. He never attempted to follow up his own prophetic words trying to prove their accuracy. His prophetic message simply was, "Thus saith the LORD." "This is the word of the LORD." "Hear the word of the LORD." Jeremiah flowed with the Spirit of God, ministering to kings and kingdoms, cities and people as the LORD led him from one situation to another.

Sometimes, today we are encouraged to discover our "gifts" and "calling," and if we become proficient in a specific type of ministry, man tends to label us. "He is a prophet." "She is a teacher." "They are evangelists." That action references the 5-fold ministries found in Ephesians 4:11 (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher). These are divine callings, positions, offices, if you will, and truly are accompanied by a divine anointing - a Holy Spirit unction - to fulfill the responsibilities attendant with that call. Not everyone in the Body of Christ, however, is called to occupy such an office, but we are all called and gifted by the Holy Spirit according to how the Lord wants to use us (1 Cor. 12-14; Rom. 12).

What we want to acknowledge is that there are times when an individual will flow with an apostolic mantle without realizing that is what it is. That's a good thing, being unaware, so the Holy Spirit may have full reign to accomplish His purposes at that moment. People will come and say to that person, "Thou art a ..." and provide a defining label based on that ministry. Then, there will be other times when the same person, under the leading of the same Holy Spirit, will prophesy. Those people will want to label him according to that ministry. We must not allow them to do that to us. I believe it's one of the works of the enemy to try to make us feel, "Well, he's this and she's that and they're the other thing." Too often, we are encouraged to "find your ministry" or "find your place" or "know what you are and define that." We spend too much time trying to determine by "giftings" who we are in the Body of Christ. It is an unnecessary exercise as the One who calls each one will affirm us in His way, and use us as He sees fit in various and differing settings.

The Holy Spirit is the only real gift, and He freely operates as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11). We could understand it like this: If I give you a shirt, that is a "gift." If I iron that shirt, that is also a "gift." The first is something to possess (the shirt), and the other is a gift to enhance what is possessed (being ironed). There is clarity added to this concept of Holy Spirit giftings in the scripture if we look at the Greek words. There are two different Greek words with separate meanings. The first (dorea) is found in verses that say, "gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38; 10:45; 11:17), and refers to the gift that we possess, the Holy Spirit Himself. The other (charisma) is most often found in the plural and translated "gifts of the Holy Spirit" (Rom.12:6; 1Cor.12:4,9,28,30,31; 1Tim.4:14; 2Tim.1:6) and could be likened to our example of an enhancement of THE gift.

The Body of Christ is to flow together with the various giftings, callings and diversity of human temperaments as each individual in the Body participates. We are to function as God directs us, moment by moment. Truthfully, every one of us is simply a child of the Most High God, called and chosen by God. He puts His Holy Spirit within and His giftings are according to His plan. The least effective members of the Body of Christ are those who put a cap on one gift and declare about themselves, "I am a ..." and avoid or disregard operating in any other calling or ministry.

When scripture says, "desire earnestly the best gift" (1 Cor. 12:31, charisma), it helps us to understand if we add these three words for clarity: "for the occasion." So, when an occasion arises that demands something be set in order, we want that momentary apostolic mantle to be activated. When God desires a mouthpiece, we want to yield to Him to be used prophetically. If instruction is called for, God looks for one of us to function as a teacher in that moment.

In all circumstances, we need only this assurance: "I know in Whom I have believed, that He is able..." and that's where to stop (2 Tim.1:12; also, Jude 1:24; Eph.3:20). "I know He has called me," period. When we allow others to put us in a box, or we put ourselves in that box, we restrict the spontaneous move of the Holy Spirit. Oh, that we would simply be available to Him for whatever purpose He deems necessary for the situation. God has set us as His own, with His unction, with His anointing, and He will use us where He wants to - unless we refuse to be used outside the box!

We must know our purpose if we are to be effective leaders in the Body of Christ.

1) PURPOSE

There is divine purpose behind everything God does, says, or directs. It is important for each of us to discern that purpose, as it will help us in making choices and decisions in every area of life. An effective leader understands his purpose in the plan of God. Jeremiah knew that God's plan for him included being set over nations and kingdoms (1:10). God told him he was a prophet (v.3) and that He had put His words in Jeremiah's mouth (v.9). Furthermore, God declared him to be "a defenced city" (v.18).

When we realize God has called us and recognize we can trust Him to protect us ("a defenced city"), it is too easy to adopt the attitude that we will be immune from problems. God's word does say that Jeremiah would be a defenced city, but that did not exempt him from trouble. In that same context, God warned him to get himself ready to "Stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not be intimidated by them or I will cause you to cower before them. Today, I am the One who has made you a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land..." (vv.17, 18, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

This is equally as true for us today. One purpose God has for the Body of Christ is to take a stand against some of the most popular and prevalent positions held by our contemporary world on a diversity of important issues. We cannot compromise, particularly on the basic foundational tenets we have been given in God's Word. This is not to incite us to rush out and threaten people in the name of prophecy. We've seen that done in the church and don't need to go through that abuse again. However, everything that is righteous stands against what seems to be the acceptable norms of today. Sin runs rampant in every circle, in every social strata, in every village, city, and suburb; literally, in every corner of the world. We can no longer dilute or ignore the mandate of God to stand up for what He says is "right." We dare not sit by silently, especially as our own Christian brothers and sisters try to "explain away" why they are living lives of sinful practices, and then attempt to appeal to our sympathies for understanding, love, and acceptance regardless of the sin. God never intended for sin to continue unchallenged, unchecked, unconfessed, or unchanged.

Paul, preaching at Mars Hill in Athens, addressed a similar situation recorded in Acts 17 (v22ff). Idolatry was a common practice there in Athens, and the Greeks even had an altar dedicated "To the Unknown God," just so they were not accidentally offending one of them by omission. Paul boldly introduced them to our God, THE Creator of heaven and earth, and in his message he confronted their idolatrous practices, concluding with the following statement. Note that this also could be a message for our nation today.

Acts. 17:30, 31 - "Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead." (HCSB)

What Paul was saying is that up until that time, God had allowed a certain amount of ignorance about Himself. People (the Gentiles) did not know who He was and this ignorance led them into sinful practices such as idolatry. God has always said, warned, and maintained, that sin would be judged and punished (Rom.2:1-16; Rom.3:23; 6:23; John 3:36). This had been a time of God's grace extended to allow people to come to the knowledge of who He was (Rom.2:4) and then to serve Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23), putting away their idolatrous and sinful practices (Eph. 4:21-5:21; Col.3:1-14). But, Paul adds, that time of grace is coming to a close and the hand of God's judgment will fall on unrighteousness, because God Himself has provided the way of reconciliation through His Son, Jesus, who gave His own life, died, and was resurrected by the power of God so that we could live (John 3:16; 5:24). So today, as in Paul's day, we cannot and must not ignore His grace and mercy, by rejecting the divine provision made for us - for our salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation to God. Now is the time we should put away sin from among us, beginning with a candid and honest evaluation of our own individual lives.

God warned Jeremiah that the people of Israel would not like, or accept, the hard message Jeremiah was to proclaim. Verse 19 says, "And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee...." It is true that the ones who find themselves guilty of the unrighteousness, or sin, against which you take a stand in favor of God's principles, will impugn (hold responsible, censure, charge, accuse) your motives. If you take such a strong stand against unrighteousness, they say, "You're not showing us love. You're not trying to understand. Ours is a special circumstance that demands unquestioning acceptance. Surely, God wants us to be happy and fulfilled." Our response should be a sincere, "I DO understand. But sin, according to God's standard, is sin, period. And your sin will separate you from God" (Isa. 59:2).

We may completely understand one's failure to live according to the Book, but we, as leaders, cannot put a stamp of approval on sin. Sin must not be sanctioned - under any circumstances. And, in the church, we may not take and use their talents, no matter how professional or wonderfully equipped they are. Once sin has been revealed, once it's been made known, the leadership is responsible and obligated to deal with it! The situation must be confronted and resolved. Jeremiah dealt with a lot of things as he functioned in his God-ordained position over nations and kingdoms.

As Jeremiah was dealing with kingdoms and kings he said, "These people that you rule over, Mr. King, are chosen by God. They have been called to live a certain way, but they are living in opposition to God's declared plan. God has called, wooed, and warned them, and now, He is going to judge them." That is the essence of Jeremiah's messages.

God's heart is to raise up bold Christians, and it does take a divinely inspired boldness to stand up for righteousness. We can obtain that unction of boldness as we grow closer and closer to the Lord. Boldness comes by caring about the things God cares about, whether positive or negative. I have prayed for years, "Oh, God. Help me to love what You love, and hate what You hate." That's not a natural thing - to hate what God hates. Sin can be very appealing and I can be so accepting at times that I take no definitive stand on anything. That's sadly true. When sincere people say, "Well, I'm trying to quit. I'm trying to..." my natural response is, "Oh, I know. Bless your heart."

But when I started praying, or rather, when I allowed the Holy Spirit to start praying through me, "Let me love what You love and give me a divine hatred for what You hate," I began to see a gradual change come within me. And in all honesty, it's not people God hates. What He hates is the other spirit that is working through their humanity. Truly, He hates the sin, but loves the sinner - a balance we must discover.

A pastor recently reported this situation in his church. They had just been made aware that an unquestionable sin had been hidden in the life of one of his staff members. Now that the sin was out in the open, they didn't know what to do. I gave this counsel: "There isn't even a further decision to be made. The sin has to be dealt with, because if it is not dealt with through real repentance (not just remorse), there is an open door for the enemy to come in and wreak havoc. Be sure of this: the enemy has been patiently waiting for an open opportunity - the devil, as a roaring lion, is out seeking whom he may destroy!" (1 Pet. 5:8). It doesn't matter the nature of the sin, when that behavior becomes ingrained as one's lifestyle, or otherwise influences how choices are made, a door to destruction is opened by that sinner.

The unfortunate thing is that the price for sin is never paid for alone. Inadvertently, the innocent pay a part too, because of their relationships with the sinner. Whole churches can be destroyed or caused to split because of sinful improprieties of the leader(s). Moreover, consider the long-term damage done to whole families because one parent claims to have "fallen out of love," or has given into the devil's trickery through lust. The innocent pay a large price for another's sin!

Too often, when we discover God's purpose behind our "call," like Jeremiah, we may want to quit because the road is often rough and lonely. It is not productive to query God asking, "Why did You pick me for this assignment?" Most likely, He is not going to reveal why you were called. People will try to help you figure that out, but God wants you to trust Him in your call. What was the purpose of God with Jeremiah? He simply needed a mouthpiece. With Jeremiah, God needed someone to go out and declare on His behalf: "I'm not going to put up with this much longer. If you don't repent as a nation, I'm going to bring judgment."

Truthfully, we should be gravely concerned when we read this in Jeremiah 1:16 because of our own nation. Our nation once believed in the one true living God and truly served Him. Things have changed dramatically. And we Christians have stood by lamely saying, "What're you going to do? You can't fight City Hall, you know." It isn't that we are out to fight City Hall. We're not even fighting for a principle or for our "rights." It's that we are out to declare - in the highways and byways and every place that is in the sphere of our own influence - the righteous nature of our God!

God will not always strive or contend with man (Gen. 6:3ff; Isa. 57:16; Mic.7:18,19). Presently, He is both drawing and convicting, but will not forever. He has been extending His mercy for those who will repent by bringing conviction for our sin. Repentance is much easier while He is contending for our purity and cleansing. When He relents, however, and leaves us to our own devices, we tend to fail to respond to His loving appeal with the right heart attitudes. We have become a stiff-necked generation. As a nation, we have hardened our heart toward God. Therefore, we likely will experience judgment, God's judgment, in the United States of America. We must pray.

I tremble at the thought of our upcoming political scene. And, I pray for mercy and grace for our nation. We don't deserve mercy and grace, but thank God, those gifts are not granted to us based on "deserved" merits. We need to pray for God's mercy and grace - mercy and grace to all countries around the world. "God prolong Your judgment just a little longer. Let us show them Your grace. Let us show them how good You are. Let us show them how easy it is to have Your blessing upon a nation. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD" (Psa. 33:12).

Purpose. God will reveal His for each of us as we continue to press in for a greater revelation of and greater intimacy with Him. We can function in the Body of Christ to a certain extent without knowing His purpose for us, but that is like trying to shoot an arrow without a target. You never really know when you make a bull's eye.