"Treasure In Clay Jars" series

Missional Authority and the Kingdom of God

We have been gathered together because of God’s mission. We are sent out because of God’s mission. We are the evangelized and the evangelizers. This mission and this gospel we proclaim isn’t from us – it is from God. That’s what it means to be a Clay Jar. That’s what it means for our church to be clay jars. We may be ordinary, broken, flawed, fragile – but we carry within us the precious treasure of God’s good news.

To be a clay jar church means that we are: Following God’s Call, Being Shaped by Scripture, Taking Risks for the Sake of the Gospel, Living Out God’s Intent for the World, Worshipping God for Sake of the World, Depending on God’s Spirit, and a simple way of saying all of that is that we are pointing the Way toward the Kingdom of God.

Since we have a mission and since we have been sent we need to keep in mind that we are going somewhere. Maybe not a literal geographic location, but we are on the Way somewhere rather than standing still. We have a mission. To be on the way, and to have a mission, we need leaders. And God has taken care of that too.

Just so you will hear this correctly, I want you to understand that this biblical teaching applies to all the various leaders God calls. It isn’t limited to elders, deacons, and ministers. It isn’t about the “offices of leadership” it is about the nature of leadership and authority in the body of Christ ...

Alexander Haig was Ronald Reagan’s Sec. of State in 1981. He is most remembered for issuing a press conference after Reagan was shot in which he stated “I’m in control here.” Haig was simply trying to reassure the nation that someone was in charge. He even acknowledged that there was a chain of succession and that he was a part of it. But he was nevertheless criticized not for taking charge, but for appearing to assume the office of leadership too quickly.

It is human nature to think of leadership in terms of offices, appointments, titles – even royalty. We symbolize this authority with badges, seals, and ceremony. From the very start however God shows us that leadership in his kingdom is going to be very different ...

The Kingdom of God: Who’s In Charge?

  1. Exodus 18. Note that Jethro does not consider Moses to be the sole source of authority. He advises Moses to share his authority with other leaders. God is the ultimate source of authority and a multiplicity of leaders does not threaten that authority. It is God – not a title or office – that empowers leaders to serve.
  2. 1 Samuel 8:4-21. God affirms to Samuel that the people did not reject his leadership and a prophet, but that they rejected God’s authority. Later God chooses the kings of Israel – Saul, David, Solomon. The “succession of authority in Israel follows God’s will, not family lineage. God calls the leaders of his people. He selected David. And the authority that God invests in his chosen leaders never threatens or supercedes God’s authority. God always remains “in charge.”

The Mission of God: Who’s In Charge?

  1. Matthew 28:18 – Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world. Rather, it is breaking into this world – it is emerging as a result of the mission. But who’s in charge of the mission?
  2. It is easy to think that we are because of the Great Commission, but notice that part of the Great Commission is the affirmation that God has given Jesus Christ all authority.
  3. Jesus sends out his disciples with authority (i.e., Matthew 10:1). But this is an authority that we represent on behalf of Christ. It is authority proclaimed “in the name of Jesus.”
  4. The leaders that Christ calls and sends are to lead us to participation in the mission of God.

Like a Shepherd Lead Us: Leadership With Purpose
The Bible uses the image of a shepherd to describe leaders among God’s people. We apply this to elders, or pastors, but the image isn’t limited to elders. The nature of a shepherd is to lead a flock with purpose. To lead the flock for their sake, not for the sake of the shepherd. And the nature of the flock is to trust to shepherd to lead them with purpose.

Missional leaders are those who derive their authority from God – they understand their leadership and the agenda of their leadership in the context of God’s mission. God has called them to lead in a particular way and for particular purposes. The purpose of missional leaders is to do the following . . .

  1. One of these purposes is to form missional community.
    Read Ephesians 4:11-16 - 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
    What are the different leadership roles mentioned in this text? What is the chain of command of these roles?
    Notice that they are all appointed by God for a common purpose – to form, build up, unify, mature, the missional community that is the church of Christ. We are the body – Christ is the head.

  2. To focus on missional vocation (calling).
    Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    Since one of the patterns of faithfulness to God’s mission is following God’s call, it makes sense that God’s leaders would keep us focused on that calling. Paul understood his role as Christ’s ambassador. He appealed to everyone to follow God’s call to be reconciled. Is that any less the charge of our leaders?
    What expectations do we sometimes place on leaders that seem good but actually distract them from “leading” us to focus on the missional vocation of the church? Too often we blamed leaders when it may be our fault for burdening leaders with responsibilities that have nothing at all to do with God’s calling.
    Let’s charge our leaders to actually lead us and keep us focused on the mission. One of the reasons certain people are good leaders is because they never lose sight of the goal – or the calling. Let’s let these people lead us.

  3. Another purpose of missional leaders is to foster missional practices.
    Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
    If you read the end of Philippians, you notice that that church needed leadership to foster the sort of practices and habits that keep people focused on the gospel. Notice that Paul is willing to make an example of not only himself, but also others who are mature and others who follow the pattern of the gospel life. (3:17)
The focus is on discipleship and spiritual formation rather than simple policy-making. We have described the mission of God as follows: Making disciples for Jesus who are eager to serve others. That should be enough.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 23 April 2006

Treasure in Clay Jars
Lesson Eight: Pattern 8 – April 23, 2006
“Shepherding Leaders; Missional Leaders”

What is this lesson all about?

During worship, we reflected on key roles that leaders play in helping the church fulfill God’s mission in the world:

  1. Forming loving community – drawing people together in love.
  2. Helping the church discern God’s calling.
  3. Encouraging the church to carry out God’s calling – get it off the drawing board and into real-life situations.

This small group guide will lead the group to consider some ways the apostles did these things in Acts 6.

Getting Started:

  1. Invite the group to discuss their understandings of the following phrases:
    • “Respect for the office of the president.”
    • “Reporting a matter to the authorities.”
    • “Developing the leader within you.”
  2. What do these phrases tell us about the understanding of authority and leadership in our dominant culture?
  3. When we speak of leaders “in the church” to whom are we generally referring? (i.e. elders, deacons, ministers, ministry leaders). What qualifies these people to be leaders? Possible answers might include: training, credentials, experience, character, passion, wisdom, title, function, role. Indicate to the group that we have a variety of ways of recognizing authority and leaders.
Searching the Word:
Read Acts 6:1-7 aloud.
  1. What are some of the things the apostles did right as leaders? What could have been some other ways to address this situation of hungry widows?
  2. What role do good leaders play in developing loving, supportive communities?
  3. What are some ways this situation in Acts could have destroyed the early Christian community?
  4. What role do good leaders play in helping the community discern its calling? How did the apostles demonstrate such discernment in this account?
  5. What role do good leaders play in launching a community into action that fits the calling? How often have you seen committees discuss an idea at length but never get around to actually serving?
  6. How can good leaders motivate us to do God’s work in the world? What motivates you to live your faith on a daily basis?
  7. How can good leaders motivate us to do God’s work in the world? What motivates you to live your faith on a daily basis? How well did the new leaders in Acts 6 do with their “meals on wheels ministry?” Read Acts 6:8-10 and 8:4-8 aloud.

Making It Real: Exploration and Response

  1. When have you seen someone get an opportunity to lead and the person shines in amazing ways nobody had expected?
  2. What is one way you are called to be a leader? What is one way you might like to develop as a leader?
  3. How well is our group functioning as a loving community?
  4. How well does our group understand what God has called us to do and be?
  5. What are some ways we are honoring God’s calling to love the world? What are we doing to get the church (us) out of the building and into the world?
  6. Who are some leaders who are helping our group understand and live out our calling?
  7. On a personal level, how well can you discern God’s calling on your life, and what are you doing to honor that call? Who helps you discover God’s mission for your life?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 23 April 2006

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