Leading From Where You’ve Actually Been
by Eric Phillips
“The true Christian leader is one who walks with others, leading them to a place where he himself has already been.”
This is an idea that recently has been on the forefront of my mind. Recently I have wrestled with the fact that there seems to be so little power in my ministry, very little true and lasting transformation within our church, and that there seems to be more and more information available yet with such little evidence of the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.
These questions that have passed through my mind for years have become more of a pressing reality, or crisis as you will, as I seek to establish East End Ecclesia. On a daily basis I encounter individuals wrestling with crack addiction, beat down by the cycle of poverty and violence, people who are at the edge of suicide. I face individuals that have been abused and called a F*&% up since they were children, unable to believe that God loves and accepts them. Worst of all I face arrogant young hipsters that in their “self justification through relevance and selective justice”, have no interest in a just God unless His justice remains confined within their superior moral definition.
So in other words I have found myself trying to convey information while realizing that information alone could never free an addict from addiction, convince an abused child that they are loved, or convince a self righteous hipster of their need for forgiveness from a righteous and just God. Within this personal struggle I’ve been continually reminded of passages that I so regularly dance around, passages concerning the our dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit, passages in calling us to not seek to build the church by words alone, but by the power of God. I have spent much time wrestling with the fact that no matter how great my ability to convey information might be, man cannot be saved by information alone.
Yet in the midst of my intellectual wrestling God has opened my eyes to a reality that I have so greatly neglected. I have been studying many of the great men of faith from times past, some of authentic moves of God that brought true transformation within the society at large, and the first great move of God through the church which was recorded within the book of Acts.
The thing that I found in common within all that I have studied is that God has worked in mighty ways through men and women who have been consumed with a deep, passionate, obsessive, pursuit of true communion with their God. God seems to mightily use those who proclaim not what they have heard about but what they have encountered, lived, and experienced. I’m so challenged as I read what was stated concerning Peter and John as they were before the Jewish leaders “they were common uneducated men, but it was apparent that these men had been with Jesus.”
I believe this is important for us today; it is not our superior education, our relevance, our charisma, or anything else that will have the greatest impact on those around us. It is the intangible reality that the outside world may not be able to pinpoint. It is the man or woman who had clearly “been with Jesus”.
So, closing up the thought I began with: The true Christian leader leads others to a place he himself has already been.
As communicators we are to speak to the church that which we have first heard from our God, as shepherds we disciple as ones who have walked with Christ, and as evangelists we proclaim a loving, powerful, awesome God that we have not just heard about but deeply know. For too long the role of the pastor has been as one giving directions from a map to a location he has not yet been, instead of acting as a guide to a mountain top that he himself has frequently visited.
But on a very real and personal level, I have for too long been consumed with a desire to learn about God, teach about God, and be on mission for Him without first and foremost being one obsessed with spending time with my God, Hearing from my God, and allowing my God to first do within me that which He desires to do within my world.
Eric Phillips is the lead pastor at East End Ecclesia in Pittsburgh, PA.