Allen Jackson - Leadership Essentials - Part 1
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It's an honor to be with you again. We're gonna talk today about leadership essentials. There is a spiritual conflict that has enveloped our world. It's not an American conflict or a Western conflict, it's a conflict that's taken over our world. Almost any place you put your finger on the globe, you could describe something, that has to be understood in spiritual terms. Well, we wanna learn to lead with spiritual influence. We understand political influence, or economic influence, or even scientific influence. Think of the pandemic, but we are not very adept in thinking in terms of our spiritual influence changing our world. The most powerful force available to a human being is spiritual. And as children of the King, we have to understand how to lead with that influence. Grab your Bible and get a note pad and most of all, open your heart to what God has for you today.
We began a new study last night. I'm gonna take a few sessions and explore with you what it means to lead with our faith. I'm really, have given some time and energy and effort in this season to mobilizing people wherever God gives me the opportunity to lead with their faith. It is a critical season, not because of elections, folks, we need outcomes far beyond what elections produce. I mean I realize they have value and they're important, but I don't want you to be confused.
Years ago when I was at a very critical juncture in my life, and it wasn't easy to identify a pathway, I was handed some advice. Three simple lines, and I wanna share it with you because I have lived with it for many years, and it has proven to be a trustworthy guide for me. The first is that, when you have to make a choice, to do nothing is to make a choice. And if you'll add to that, silence in the face of evil is affirmation. And if you'll add to that, if you fail to respond, you will increasingly be overcome by the evil that you're standing against. That's helpful. The spiritual turmoil in our world these days continues to gain momentum. Have you noticed?
I mean, God is moving in some most remarkable ways. We'll talk about that in far more detail, but the reality is, it seems as if evil gains momentum on a daily basis. The daily reports of evil and wickedness are unsettling, both in their scope and in their frequency. It's just hard to believe sometimes. Thank God, the queen went to heaven and gave us a break in the news cycle. You know it's true. You know, one of the issues that made its way into the public square recently, had to do with gender confusion being promoted amongst our children. It's unsettling, it's kind of coming into the public consciousness you know, drip by drip, by drip. It's really almost beyond belief. Not only is there curriculum in our schools which promotes these destructive ideas to children, there was reporting this week that revealed many of our leading healthcare providers in our nation had been sponsoring the mutilation of our children for several years.
And in Tennessee, we like to look other places and say, "Well, it's there, it's on the coast someplace, or it's in some urban center," but in this case, it was far more uncomfortable than that. In this case, it involved Middle Tennessee, Vanderbilt. I earned a degree there. I have benefited from their healthcare system, many of us have. They began planning a clinic to address transgender health in 2016. It opened in August of 2018. It's not something which is emerged since the pandemic, it didn't slip in with the virus from someplace else in the world. It's been flourishing amongst us; we've been asleep. Publicly acknowledging medical practices based upon thought leaders, not clinical research. Minors in Middle Tennessee, having life altering surgeries provided at Vanderbilt because it was profitable. Their words, not mine. We're told there's nothing to see here.
Don't ask any questions, don't have the temerity to inquire, because parents have agreed to the procedures as if that should cause us to be silent. Well, if parents agreed to let their minor children drink alcohol, get drunk, and then sent them to school in an altered mental state, there would be repercussions. We would say that's bad parenting. That's something you can recover from in a matter of a few hours. Surely we can acknowledge that gender reassignment for minors, is not a wise choice to be celebrated in our schools or our medical centers. Some profits are not acceptable. We all have to use our voice and I would submit, it's especially important for those who live in that healthcare industry. Whatever your status, I understand there's consequences and there can be repercussions, but there'll be greater repercussions for hiding the truth.
I spent months walking with you through the principles of big trouble ahead. We talked about how to flourish in the season of deception and fear. And the real objective of those weeks and months together was to identify a personal pathway, through this very tumultuous season. We considered our private responses, we didn't wanna blame other people, we didn't wanna point through the windows of the church and say, "That's the problem". We spent months, many of them outdoors, kneeling, putting our faces in the grass and in the asphalt saying, "God, be merciful to us, we have worshiped at the altars of comfort and convenience, and we have to be different".
In fact, we put all those lessons into a book, which we recently published, we gave you a copy, trying to encourage Christ followers across the nation, make it easier to share those ideas with other people. Not everybody wants to watch 30 sermons. I know, it's a mystery to me, too. I have repeatedly reminded you that our problems at their root are spiritual. Our fundamental problems aren't political, economic, or ideological; we have a spiritual challenge. The good news in that is that you and I are at the center of the discussion. You're very important. It's not about titles or resources that are accumulated or power that you've managed to gather; it's understanding the role you have in the unfolding kingdom of God. I've asked you repeatedly with me to watch, to listen, to think and be prepared to act.
Well, once you've begun to make personal adjustments, we have to begin to consider our responsibilities beyond ourselves. The question I'm asked most often is, "What can I do, what can I do, Pastor, what is it I'm supposed to do"? We feel powerless, primarily because we don't understand the spiritual tools that we've been entrusted with. Many of you ever flown commercially, you ever been on a commercial airline flight? About 10 of you, how do the rest of you travel? Bicycles? I know it's Tennessee, but we still fly in Tennessee, right? How many of you been on a commercial flight? That's a little better. You thought I was gonna ask for volunteers for something, didn't you? But you've all heard the speech. Before they'll let you take off, they tell you how to buckle your seatbelt. I'm thinking by this point, if you can't buckle the seatbelt, probably shouldn't be flying.
But then there's the part about in case of an emergency, an oxygen mask would drop down from the ceiling. Remember hearing that? And you're told the first thing you should do is secure the mask securely around your mouth and your nose. No matter whom you're traveling with, young or old, that before you help anybody else secure that mask, you pull on that little cord to ensure that there's a free flow of oxygen, secure your mask so you can breathe. That's the first order of business. And then if there's anything else to be done, do it after you've done that. Well in the church world, I think that's kind of us working out our salvation. Got to be born again, that's important, I'm an advocate for that.
So I think we've had a tremendous focus in my run through church in the last few decades on getting your mask on. But then I want you to imagine you're on that flight and those masks drop down and there is some sort of an emergency, and you've got your mask secure, and you look around you and in the seats next to you and the row behind you, and the row in front of you, and across the aisle from you, they're all children, and they're all frightened, they seem to be having trouble with the masks, and you sit there breathing deeply of the oxygen you have totally disengaged, not your problem. They're not your kids. You don't share DNA with them. Can't believe some parent put them on this plane and let them fly unaccompanied like that. It's a shame they weren't better listeners. I have a word for that person: it's evil. If you have the ability to help and you don't, it's evil.
Now, I've been a part of this story, so I'm not throwing stones at anyone. It's my journey as well as yours, but I would submit to you that while 60 million children were sacrificed, we sat with our masks on and didn't say much. It was inconvenient, it was awkward. We didn't wanna be excluded from places where we preferred to be included, and now they're mutilating children. Again, we don't have to be angry, we don't wanna be violent, you don't wanna be belligerent, but you have to be an advocate for the children. This is our generation, we're the church. Every human life is valuable. There's a dignity in all of us, confusion is a horrible thing, God's not the author of confusion, but when we see confusion, we should bring truth.
How do we lead with our faith? How do we impact our culture? What's that mean? You lead, in many ways, many of you are world class leaders already. You're world class leaders in business, or finance, or academics, in all sorts of technology. Some of you are great leaders in athletic circles, some of you are athletic leaders in academics in our schools, you're leaders in your peer groups, you lead in many, many, many ways. I've observed something, oftentimes people who are very talented, gifted, effective leaders in other arenas are almost incapable of leading with their faith. There's a whole host of reasons I suppose for that, but we wanna overcome that. And I'm gonna take the minutes we have and focus on three leadership essentials with you. There's some things that I would submit from a biblical perspective that are absolutely necessary, if you're going to just exhibit influence for the kingdom of God. They're not optional, you can't negotiate them away, easy for me to say.
Leadership essentials. The first one is it has to do with recognizing that you're inadequate. In fact, I'm gonna absolve you today, of the burden you carry to be all things to all people. You are not, there is a God, that job's taken. God recruits people who are less than, so that in the middle of all the things that we are not, what he is becomes more visible. And you're not allowed to withdraw from the arena because you recognize how inadequate you are. It's not a legitimate excuse, it won't be accepted because the price that was paid to qualify you to make a difference in your journey through time, was the sacrifice of God's Son. That's gonna be awkward to stand in front of your Lord and say, "You didn't do enough to empower me to be a difference maker". He was tortured to death. So just maybe we're gonna have to readjust this one, but that recognition that we're inadequate, that in myself I can't do it, is an essential component in being effective.
Look in Revelation chapter 5. This is a beautiful picture. The book of Revelation bounces back and forth with these scenes between heaven and earth. It's a message delivered to John, Jesus' closest friend. John said, "I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?' But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, 'Don't weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.'"
That picture is helpful, it's a scene in heaven. John, now you've got to consider this a minute, this is Jesus' closest friend. By this point, his peer group is gone, they've been martyred. He's been exiled to an island. He's a prisoner because of his advocacy for Jesus. And the book of Revelation opens with a message that there's a revelation God wants to deliver to his people in the earth. And Jesus says, "I know someone I can trust with this. I'll send an angel to John". So this is a man, highly esteemed. I mean, he was recruited by Jesus, trained by Jesus. He was entrusted with the care of Jesus' mother when Jesus was on the cross. This isn't just some scrub, they drug in from wherever. And when John sees this scene, and the question is, who's worthy to open the scroll? The answer is no one. And John begins to weep.
Do you ever look at the world around you and weep? Do you ever feel inadequate, incomplete, like you're not charged up enough? Do you need a fire wire? Well that's the scene and someone says to John, "You don't need to weep, the Lion of the tribe Judah is here". Inadequate we are, but we're not alone and the awareness of your limit is a very essential component to a role of significance in the kingdom of God. When you get to the place that you think you've got this, I hope you're on the other team. It's our willingness to humble ourselves, and recognize that on our best day, we can't heal a gnat's wing. We can't save anybody's life, we can't forgive a sin. We can't defeat Satan, you're no match for the devil. If you and I were a match for Satan himself, Jesus wouldn't have needed to come and offer himself as a sacrifice. So rather than your inadequacy disqualifying you, it's a nominating essential. I'm not making this up.
Look at 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 28, says this, Paul's writing to a church and he said, "God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things... and the things that are not... to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus". That's the game changer right there, you're gonna be in Christ, not in church, not in the denomination, not in the right translation, not in the right worship style; in Christ Jesus changes everything. He is our righteousness, he's the one who justifies us. Again, we've been distracted. We've described ourselves in so many other ways. "In Christ Jesus, who has become for us, wisdom from God", that is, "our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, 'Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.'"
The message I'm processing with you is leading with your faith. There's some real significant resistance to that in our world these days: things you know you're not supposed to say, things you know you're not supposed to notice, perspectives you're not supposed to extend into the culture 'cause there could be repercussions for that. And if you feel inadequate to stand against them, you are right. But from that place, if we can acknowledge that we don't stand in our strength or our intellect or my training, we stand in the authority of Jesus of Nazareth, who happens to be the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And every knee will bow before him. And in our journey through time, we want everybody affiliated with us to know that we stand on his behalf, before we identify with anything else. Hm. I would submit to you, and I spent my life in the church, so I'm really, I'm not throwing stones at anybody else, I'm trying to observe the journey, and we struggle with a little bit too much selfish ambition.
You know, we'll put ourselves forward for big assignments, maybe profitable assignments, assignments that we imagine would be rewarded or self-fulfilling. And I truly think that the pathway, the doorway to real significance in the kingdom, starts with doing things that others don't deem significant. Thank you for that rousing amen. I appreciate your support and your encouragement. Look in Philippians 2 verse 3. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit". Do nothing, don't do anything if you're doing it out of selfish ambition, Ambition is not wrong. God created you with the capacity for ambition. I think the direction of Scripture is that we have ambition for the kingdom of God. Most of us are ambitious for many, many things but the kingdom of God is somewhere down that list. And many of you are ambitious, that your children serve the Lord wholeheartedly. More than you're ambitious, that they achieve or become or get a scholarship, whatever.
You see, if that's at the top of the list, it changes how you pray, what you engage with them, what you involve them with. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition, but consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interest of the others". You talk about something that would change the culture of the 21st century church, if we consider the interest of others. No, we have to talk about it in church, don't get mad 'cause somebody sits in your seat. I mean, we talk about it enough, we laugh about it. Somebody's gonna take your parking place. "Well, you know, I don't know if I like that. I'd park two rows further away". "Had to sit next to somebody". Come on Wednesday night; it's a beautiful thing to behold. I'm amazed that without doing any, as far as I can tell, there's no math being done in the room, but the geometric dispersal of people on campus is beautiful.
On the other side of the building, it's filled with teenagers, very close proximity. Teenagers get close. I mean, you got to keep an eye on them; they'll get too close, right? I pray if you're not used to it, go watch a room full of teenagers, they don't have any problem, they don't wanna spread out, they'll be standing right up here in everybody's business. "Hi, I'm Allan, how are you? I don't think I know you". You come over here where the people get a little older, we spread out like the pox has come in the room, and then we talk about being brothers and sisters in the Lord. Think about others. It would change the church. The reality is we are inadequate. We're not perfect, church isn't a hall of fame of faith.
Folks, we're a triage unit. We come in here limping, and wounded, and taped up, we need the encouragement. One of the most damaging things that's happened to us, there's statistics coming out now about what happened to our children when they couldn't be together in school, that their learning declined precipitously. We're having some of the lowest test scores we've had in our history as a people. May I ask you a question? If the children's learning was diminished by the inability to be together, do you think it's possible that the adult's learning could be diminished because we weren't together? I'm just saying, I know all the skeptics, "You're just trying to get me to come to church". No, actually it's easier for me if you're on the other side of a screen, but I think there's a benefit in being with the people of God far beyond sermons or music. We help one another, we encourage one another. It's God's strength, it's not my strength, I am inadequate. If you've made that observation, you're absolutely right.
Look at 2 Corinthians 12:9. "He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you.'" This is Paul asking God for help. He has a persistent challenge and God said, "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness". If it's up to me, I'd wipe that out of my Bible. I'd just hit delete, I'd highlight it and hit delete. But the reality is, in the places where we're weak and we're inadequate, we become far better listeners. "Therefore, I'll boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me. That's why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I'm weak, then I'm strong".
If you've been withdrawing from leading with your faith 'cause you feel inadequate, you've missed an important qualification, that sense of inadequacy nominates you to a front row seat. Stop using it. In fact, I brought you a proclamation, it's a verse of scripture, I'm gonna ask you to say it with me as a declaration over your life. Is it in your notes, have you found it? If you've been ignoring the notes, catch up with me. It's Philippians chapter 4, verses 12 and 13. Let's just say it together. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength". Amen, you don't wanna wait until you have more to do something for the Lord, you don't wanna wait until you're encumbered with less. You can do whatever God puts in front of you, if you're willing to lead with your faith.
If you feel inadequate for ministry, that's an important qualification for significance in the kingdom of God. In ourselves, we can do very little, but in Christ we can do all things. So where you feel inadequate is exactly the place that's the incubator for the power of God to break loose in your life. I wanna pray with you, that we'll have the courage to stand for Jesus in the midst of our own brokenness.
Father, I thank you, that your strength is made perfect in my weakness. May we have the courage to choose you in every circumstance and to be your advocate, in Jesus' name, amen.