Monday, March 1, 2010

"An Authentic Servant" by: Ajith Fernando

This super-short 19 page book, more like a paper than a book, is available at the cafe for $3.00. I had a bunch of people ask me about it when I was working at the cafe, so I decided to give it a quick read.

This booklet is about spiritual leadership. It could be said to be a booklet about Paul's leadership and the example that leadership leaves for us. Patrick Fung (General Director, OMF International) writes the foreward and asks, "Are we willing for costly service? Do we yearn for those whom we lead? How can we keep our focus on the cross, and let the paradox of joy in suffering seep down into our understanding, our personal discipleship? There is no other authentic Christian leadership. Because of our fallen natures, and the pride which permeates all our attitudes and relationships, we are bound to struggle - and to find ourselves constantly struggling - if we are to win through to true servanthood." (p.1)

Leadership Principle #1 - Be willing to die. In this section Ajith gives small examples - like being willing to engage with our family members and talk when we come home from a long day of ministry; and bigger examples - like continuing to reach out to a difficult feild (he uses Muslims as an example) instead of just giving up and looking for something easier. He concludes this section by saying that we should have a "theology of groaning". From verses such as Romans 8:18-23 ("all creation groans") and 2 Cor. 4:16-17 ("our momentary troubles are acheiving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all") we see that Christians are able to groan as we wait for glory.

Leadership Principle #2 - Yearning for the lost and for Believers. In Romans 9:1-3 we see Paul yearning for his countrymen who didn't yet know Christ. Ajith writes, "As he contemplated the lostness of his own people he was broken up inside. Today people do all they can to avoid such pain." In 1 Cor 9, we see that Paul's yearning turned into urgency to preach and to reach people in any way he could. And Paul also showed that he yearned for Believers - to have "Christ formed in them" in passages like Gal 4:19 and 1 Thess 2:8.

Leadership Principle #3 - Biblical stress. Ajith writes, "One of the results of opening our lives to others and yearning for them is stress." haha - that's putting it mildly! He brings up 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 when Paul speaks about the "pressure of concern for all the churches." He mentions also, (thank goodness!) unbiblical stress - stress that comes from refusing to delegate, messiah complex, and desire for earthly success. He then describes the strange tension that he knows about so well between biblical joy and biblical pain/stress. A lack of biblical joy means we have areas of unbelief mixed in. And, "We may have the stress of love, but we can't have the anxiety of unbelief."

Leadership Principle #4 - Preserving joy. "Grappling to preserve the joy of the Lord is a discipline we ought to cultivate...When we have joy in the Lord, the joy becomes our strength."

Leadership Principle #5 - Finishing well. Well-meaning Christians can overwork themselves in a fleshly way, neglecting their health and families, and end up in disillusionment. Yet Paul descibes "outwardly wasting away, but inwardly being renewed day by day." (2 Cor. 4:16) So how can we live well, and finish well? Ajith says we need to follow the other basic features of biblical discipleship.
He specifically mentions:
-regular unhurried time with God in prayer and Bible study
-guarding the joy of the Lord
-taking our Sabbath rest
-working with the Body by delegating responsibilities, and without trying to meet every need
-sacrificially fulfilling our responsibilities to our families
-looking forward to the coming glory which enables us to live with frustration on earth

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