Today we begin a series looking at leadership principles from everyday leaders in the Bible. Now I’ll be honest, I love being a leader and according to my parents I have always been one. When I was about 2 years old my parents would put in my playpen where I would immediately toss out all my toys and then sit down and cry. My two older sisters would come into the room and, feeling sorry for me, pick up all my toys and put them back into the playpen. After they would leave, I would toss them out again and sit down to cry until they returned. Apparently I could this over and over again and I got very good at it. While my Mom defined this as teasing, I have decided to define this as leadership because at its core leadership is influencing people to think, believe or act in certain ways and from what they told me, I was pretty good at influencing my sisters to feel sorry for me and then do what I wanted them to do. (Unfortunately the leadership principle of crying to get attention didn’t continue to work with them or with anyone else as I got older.)
The author John Maxwell, who has written extensively on leadership, has said that leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another. If leadership is simply one life influencing another then we need to ask ourselves where and how we might be leaders because we all have influence on others. Wherever we go, there are people watching us and in a variety of ways they are being influenced by our attitudes, words and actions. We have influence in our homes as our children and teens look to us as they try to make good decision and reach their full potential. Many jobs directly try to influence people to behave in certain ways or buy certain goods or services, but in every job there are people watching us and making decision because of what they see and hear and experience in us.
Certainly in the life of the church and as followers of Jesus we have a responsibility for how we influence others. Jesus made this clear when he said, you are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world. Salt was used to preserve meat or provide taste and flavor – it influenced what it came into contact with and light always has an influence on darkness – it overcomes it and pushes it out. So Jesus calls us to have a certain kind of positive, life-giving influence in the world which means that in some way we are all called to be and already are living lives as leaders so what I want to do this summer is explore how we can increase our effectiveness as leaders as well as our desire to lead.
The Bible is full of some pretty ordinary people who understood their responsibility to influence their generation. Many Biblical leaders are very well known. We know the stories of Noah, Abraham, David and Elijah and how they led and influenced others, but what I want to do is focus on some of the everyday leaders we may not have heard about and see what we can learn from them. These are not people with titles or positions and sometimes they had no defined power in this world at all, but they were leaders because they influenced others by their strong character and so we are going to explore some of the principles we see lived out in their every-day lives and examine how these principles can help us.
Today we are going to begin with the principle of passion. Business author Richard Chang has said that the greatest advantage a leader can possess is passion, but what is passion? Louie Giglio, one of the speakers at this year’s Global Leadership Summit that I hope you will consider attending this August, has said, passion is the degree of difficulty we are willing to endure to accomplish the goal. That’s a great definition because the word passion comes from the Latin word pati which means pain. (passion – pati – pain) In the Bible we call the story of Jesus’ final days before the crucifixion the passion narrative because Jesus endured a great deal of difficulty and pain to accomplish his goal.
Passion implies intensity. It is feeling so strongly about something that we simply can’t help but do something. Some have described passion as the underlying force that fuels all of our emotions and gives us energy, excitement and enthusiasm. While we may not always be able to define a leader’s passion, my guess is we have all been able to see it in others. Can you identify a passionate leader in your life? Maybe it was the coach who cheered you on in little league or dance class or the teacher who inspired you to further your education or read that one book that changed your life. Maybe it was the Sunday School teacher, youth leader, choir director or good friend who loved you and believed in you so much that it built up your self esteem and helped you see that you could do more and be more than you ever thought possible. A passionate leader for me was Mrs. Barrett my 5th grade Sunday School Teacher. She let me stay in class another year even though Sunday School at our churched officially ended after 5th grade. Then there was Mrs. Mack my youth choir director who showed me I could do some pretty creative things in the life of the church and then Ed and Joanne Foster my youth leaders gave me the ability and encouragement to step out and actually lead others in our group.
I am also where I am and who I am today because of Dave DeGraaf who was a passionate follower of Jesus I met at MSU. He lived with intense joy, great enthusiasm and took his faith so seriously that he smuggle Bibles into China during a summer he studied abroad. Getting to be a part of that through prayer was exciting for me and influenced my faith. The passion seen in all these people was different, but it all had a profound influence on my life and faith. They were leaders who inspired me to lead. While I hope you can name one or two passionate leaders who have helped shape and change your life what I really want for us is to explore is how we can identify and nurture our passion so we can shape and influence others in ways that will help them experience the fullness and life of God.
To help us explore deeper this leadership principle of passion I want to look at a man in the New Testament that often goes unnoticed. His name is Cornelius and we find his story in Acts 10:1-3. Now it just happens that you sent me to Caesarea so I have some pictures to show you of this region.
|Caesarea looking out to the Sea|
|Along the Mediterranean Sea|
This is an incredibly beautiful place along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and what I found truly special was being able to see the remains of an aqueduct built by Herod the Great who used Caesarea as the capital of the Roman Provence of Judea.
|One of my favorite pictures from the trip!|
What we know of Cornelius is that he was a centurion, which means he was a non-commissioned officer who worked his way up in the Roman Legion. He wasn’t born into privilege and position; in fact there are some who speculate that he was the descendant of slaves. Cornelius was an ordinary man, but clearly someone whose passion influenced others and made a dramatic difference in the world
As we heard in Acts 10, Cornelius’ passion was for God, Acts 10:2. While Cornelius was a gentile and served in the Roman Legion, he didn’t allow those things to keep him from God. While friends and fellow soldiers (both above and below him in rank) may have questioned why he worshiped the God of Israel when he was a Roman, Cornelius didn’t let those difficulties or obstacles hold him back. He not only believed in God, but he put that belief into action and prayed regularly and gave generously. Cornelius’ passion for God moved him to do all he could to remain strong in his relationship with God. What Cornelius shows us is that passion isn’t something we can just talk about – it is expressed in how we live. We can’t fake passion, we can’t just talk passion – passion is lived and Cornelius lived with passion.
Cornelius’ passion was seen in his commitment to prayer and it was during prayer that God gave him a vision. It says that it was 3 in the afternoon, which was the time for prayer that Cornelius was told to send for a man named Simon (Peter) who was staying in Joppa. This was a strange request because Peter was a Jew and Cornelius was a Gentile so Peter would not have been able to enter Cornelius house, but because Cornelius was so passionate about his relationship with God he didn’t let anything stand in his way, he sent for Peter.
Now as all of this was going on with Cornelius, Peter was having his own vision and God was telling him that it was ok for him to eat animals that were considered by the Jewish people to be unclean. Remember, Jesus was Jewish and so the Christian movement really began as a sub-group within the Jewish community. This meant that the people in the early church followed the dietary laws of the Jewish people. So Peter and others didn’t eat certain kinds of meat – like pork – and they never would. But in his vision, Peter is being told to eat all this unclean meat and that he is not to call anything impure that God has made clean, Acts 10:15,
Now let’s keep reading, 10:17-22.
So Cornelius passion for God moved him to send for Peter and Peter, who just had a vision about God making all things clean, is being told to go and visit Cornelius who was a gentile – someone Peter would have considered unclean. Can you begin to sense what God is about to do here? God is about to open up the Christian faith to all people, Jew and Gentile. All who are willing to believe and trust in Jesus can now be considered clean.
Peter goes to visit Cornelius and this is what he says, Acts 10:28-29a . It was Cornelius passion for God that moved him to invite Peter to his home and it was that invitation that influenced Peter to take to heart the message God gave him that all people should be considered clean. After Peter shares the message of Jesus, and Cornelius and his family accept it, the Holy Spirit is poured out on them and Peter says there is no reason why they should not be baptized and considered a full part of the church. The church of Jesus was now moving in a new area, among the gentiles, and they were being offered full inclusion in the church. This change would not have been possible without the passion of Cornelius. It was his passion for God that led him to prayer which opened the door for God to use him to invite Peter for this visit which set into motion the events that opened the church to the gentiles.
So let’s identify and learn from Cornelius about the role of passion in a leader. In his book the 21 indispensable qualities of a leader, John Maxwell identifies 4 truths of passion that we see in this story:
1. Passion is the first step toward achievement. Passion is what gets us moving. Our desire helps determines our destiny so it is important to listen to what we are passionate about.
Cornelius was passionate about God which led him to prayer which opened the door for God to speak to him and led Cornelius to call for Peter. It was Cornelius passion that determined his destiny and as a leader his passion helped influence and change the face of Christianity.
2 Passion increases willpower. Our passion produces an energy that helps us push through any obstacles to accomplish our goal. Cornelius knew that Peter, being a Gentile, should not have entered his home, but his passion for God caused him to move forward. Cornelius was willing to stand against the social norms of his day and do what God asked him to do.
3. Passion change us. While our passion can help us influence and change others, the biggest thing that passion can do is change us. When we become passionate about something it changes how we think about ourselves and it can help us see that not only do we have a responsibility to influence others but that we can influence others and maybe even bring about real change in our world. So while passion can change our world, we first need to let it change us and help us see that we are leaders called by God.
4. Passion makes the impossible – possible. Whatever fires up our hearts, will tear down the walls which makes all things possible. The wall between Jew and Gentile was torn down as Cornelius (and Peter) listened to the voice of God. Their passion helped change everything and made what seemed impossible – possible. Passion is what helps us begin to see the possibility that God sees in us and where leadership within us can be developed. Jesus says we can do even greater things than he did, but that doesn’t come without passion. Once the fire of passion has started – it can consume all in its path and direct us to the time and place where God can release the potential he has given us.
So passion makes us better leaders which means we need to ask ourselves, what am I passionate about? Take a passion inventory:
• What interests you?
• What concerns you?
• What build up your righteous indignation?
• What moves you to tears?
• Where are you passions at home or at work?
• Where does your passion lie as you look at the community, world or your own person bucket list?
Many times it is in identifying the things that fire us up that will help lead us to the places where God can most use us. If we can’t identify our passion then we need to ask others what passion they see in is. Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s in our own lives.
If we still aren’t finding ourselves passionate about anything then we should think about returning to our first love. What used to get us fired up? What are the things we used to love about our job, or our marriage, or our faith, or just life in general? Where there hobbies we could spend hours on or activities we loved to take part in? While we all grow and our interests change, sometimes returning to those things we loved at first can reignite passion.
God himself suggests this to a church that was in danger of losing its passion. Revelation 2:4-5: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. In other words, remember your first love and reignite your passion and faith by doing what you did at first. For all of us, this can be a good way to reignite our faith. If we feel dry and distant in our connection with God, then we need to go back to when our hearts were on fire for Jesus and do those things we did at first. Can we recommit ourselves to prayer, worship, service, fellowship and all those things we know are important to our faith?
The third way to reignite passion is to associate with people of passion. Passion is contagious. Just as a fire spreads and consumes all in its path – so does passion. If we need to reignite our passion then maybe we need to spend time with passionate people and let their energy and enthusiasm spill into our lives. This is what happened with Cornelius and Peter. On their own they could only go so far, but once they got together – the passion each of them had ignited something in the other and the end result was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which astonished the people and led to a growing, stronger worldwide church.
Let me share a personal story about passion igniting passion. Several years ago I preached a sermon and while I don’t remember what it was about I do remember showing this picture -
I had to make sure everyone understood what this picture was all about so I talked about how in the East regional finals of the 1992 NCAA Basketball Tournament, Duke played Kentucky and with 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime, Duke trailed 103–102. Grant Hill threw a pass the length of the court to Christian Laettner who dribbled once, turned and hit a jumper as time expired. What I love about this picture is that it shows you everything. The ball is in the air, you see the time still on the clock so you know the shot will count if it goes in – which it does and so this picture just says it all. SI said this was the greatest college basketball game of all time and USA Today listed it as the greatest NCAA tournament game of all time. It’s just an awesome picture of an awesome moment that just gets me fired up about college basketball.
After worship that Sunday, Rhonda Leiter said to me, I don’t even like college basketball but you made me want to go home and watch a game. Passion ignites passion. If you want to reignite your passion then hang around people who are passionate and watch the fire start to burn. Our passion can influence other and our lives can be influenced by the passion of others.
Cornelius was an everyday leader whose passion influenced others. He shows us that we can positively influence others in life and in faith and if we will identify our passion and allow God to use this principle to develop our leadership. If we do this, we can begin to set this world on fire.
Leadership Principles ~ PASSION
Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts.
It is about one life influencing another. ~ John Maxwell
Passion is the degree of difficulty we are willing to endure to accomplish the goal ~ Louie Giglio
1. Explore your passions:
• What interests you? Concerns you?
• What gets you angry? Moves you to tears?
• What are you passionate about at home or work?
• Where does your passion life in the church, community or world?
• What is on your own person bucket list?
• Ask others to identify the passions they see in you.
2. Examine your influence: Identifying our passions can help us see where leadership can be developed.
• Is there an area you identified in #1 where you can increase your involvement and influence?
• What is the first step you can take to move forward in this area?
3. Expand your relationships: Passion ignites passion
• Identify a passionate leader who can motivate you.
• Identify one person you can influence in a positive way with your passion and help ignite their lives and faith.
If you are a regular attendee to Faith Church consider attending the Global Leadership Summit Aug. 14 – 15.
Early Bird Registration Price ends July 15.
Many more current books on leadership can be found in the Church Library.