Monday, August 31, 2009

Thoughts on Robert Clinton's "The Making of a Leader"

Reflecting further on leadership guidance and ministry maturing the past few days, three critical points in Robert Clinton's concluding chapters in "The Making of a Leader" stuck out.

In discussing multi-phase ministry processes, Clinton provides insight to what he calls negative preparation, a process item that involves God's use of conflict and hardship. The purpose of negative preparation is to break and humble a leader in a way that launches him/her into greater freedom. As negative preparation is experienced, God can use the time to develop perseverance and integrity in either an emerging or seasoned leader.Clinton admits that despite its necessity, this particular component of guidance processing is not meant to be viewed as an easy escape for those who often place themselves in difficult situations. Instead, the emphasis should be focused on release and "new season" preparation.

Negative preparation essentially leads to brokenness - a pathway to greater submissiveness. In His ministry, Jesus flawlessly modeled the kind of persevering humility that results from righteously navigating negative preparation. Clinton states negative preparation process items can include relationship difficulty, a crisis in job or ministry, illness, isolation, and similar life maturing processes he goes on to describe in chapter seven.

After analyzing a few of such maturing processes (i.e. life crises, conflict, isolation, etc.), Clinton summaries a few key points on quality, effective leadership, one being how spiritual authority should not be perceived as a goal but rather a byproduct. If authority is God-delegated, then how can man expect to obtain (on solely man's abilities)opportunities and positions of spiritual leadership? The better perspective reveals that God gives assignments to leaders who have learned to rely entirely on God, realizing supreme authority and power belongs to Him, and that spiritual leadership is primarily about extending God's authority, NOT exclusively the leader's authority. As Clinton points out, a leader does not seek spiritual authority, but rather seeks to know God, thus enhancing a two-way, vertical, love relationship. A heart to understand and share intimacy with God is the key. Authority comes on the road to discovering who God is; it is not a final destination.

In closing, Clinton reminds the reader how a leader should cultivate and develop a ministry philosophy in line with his ministry mission statement. We cannot simply mirror another's philosophy but must arise out of the leader's leadership development, molded by God during trials and constructive opportunities. A ministry philosophy should revolve around what Clinton defines as the central task of leadership: "influencing God's people towards God's purpose" (203). And not just surrounding the principle as to integrating the philosophy into the leader's ministry at large.

In addition, a solid ministry philosophy should have methods grounded in the right principles. Clinton's idea of labeling principles in short phrases proceeded by listing out a simple statement of that principle is an excellent approach to crafting a strong, foundational ministry philosophy.

To be continued...

Monday, August 17, 2009

"The God They Never Knew" Book Review

In "The God They Never Knew", George Otis sheds light on his interpretation of grace and its relation to real faith. Upon inspection, many readers can agree he offers a solid understanding of what grace looks like in addition to how it should be interpreted and applied.

First off, he dismisses the idea of salvation having to be paid for, citing this notion as a major division in the modern day church. He notes that if Jesus paid for our sins, then forgiveness is impossible by means of retributive justice, a lacking of mercy and compassion. Many denominational splits occur over the concept of grace. Believers associate the ultimate debt of sin as having been paid for on the cross. Interestingly enough, many of those believers claim to abide by forgiveness and grace, which contradict the point Otis is making in his book.

Grace cannot be understood in terms of penance, and Otis captures the idea by comparing release to fulfillment. Grace loses purpose and meaning if God slaps an expectation of fulfillment of sin on us; on the flip side, grace comes to life when compassion makes an appearance and nullifies that expectation of retribution.

Otis further adds to his list of what grace is not, stating problem “payment” words such as “ransom” and “redeem” are often associated with the atonement. Otis links the notion of salvation being paid for to universalism. If sin is literally paid for with Jesus’ blood, then God is vindictive and completely incompatible with biblical forgiveness, in the sense dying for the sins of the entire world converts salvation into a legal transaction, according to Otis.

As an illustration, Otis makes a wise maneuver by telling two stories that convey the importance of reconciliation. Atonement was designed to humble the sinner to repentance and realize God’s perspective on sin. The stories of the sacrificial lamb at the altar and King Zaleucas plucking the eye out of his son to preserve a just doctrine drive home this point.

Overall Otis paints an adequate picture of God’s grace by straying from a Calvinist model and bringing to the light a fitting revelation that grace is completely outside paid fulfillment. In essence, Otis’ words and emphasis on the theme of salvation and reconciliation place grace on the right spiritual pedestal. God’s grace needs to be understood on the foundation of us being dependent on God to be saved. Grace is based off God’s deep love and compassion. His thirst for justice, even His wrath, is rooted in the larger scope of unconditional, perfect love.

Otis supports the belief that grace is receiving what sinners should not receive, referencing the account in Matthew 18 – the story of Jesus forgiving the man who owed a large sum of money. Christ did not PAY for our forgiveness. He did not use an earthly means to achieve atonement and unity with His creation. God simply pressed the ‘release’ button on our sins, and shattered the mold of man’s idea of grace in relation to sacrifice.