As A Leader
In The Body Of Christ
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
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
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
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
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;
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
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
We must know our purpose if we are to be effective leaders in the Body
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
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),
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.
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 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.
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.