“[Quoting Charles Spurgeon] Have none of you ever noticed, in your own lives, that whenever God is going to give you an enlargement, and bring you out to a larger sphere of service, or a higher platform of spiritual life, you always get thrown down? That is His usual way of working; He makes you hungry before He feeds you; He strips you before He robes you; He makes nothing of you before he makes something of you. This was the way with David. He is to be king in Jerusalem; but he must go to the throne by the way of the cave. Now, are any of you here going to heaven, or going to a more heavenly state of sanctification, or going to a greater sphere of usefulness: Do not wonder if you go by the way of the cave.” (Brian J. Dodd. Empowered Church Leadership. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003, p. 47)
This death-then-resurrection pattern keeps surfacing in my reading. I can identify many places in my spiritual and leadership journey that feel much more death-like than “life-like.” I don’t like how it feels in a cave. I can’t imagine David did either. I would rather stand on the mountaintop. Just being honest.
“This is what is so wrong, even dangerous, about the recent trend of Christian leaders adopting the ‘commitment to excellence’ fad in the business world. I’m not saying we should have a commitment to schlock, but our excellence is not that which ‘makes clear’ that the power comes from God and not from us. When a commitment to excellence means that ordinary folk are no longer viewed as able to do ministry (as I have seen this trend work itself out), we have become more Corinthian and less Christian in our leadership.” (Dodd. p. 82)
“More Corinthian and less Christian in our leadership.” Ouch! This is Dodd’s evaluation of much of American church leadership thinking. By what ruler will I measure the excellence to which I claim I am committed? Is it the kind of excellence that goes together with power that is made perfect in weakness? Do I end up with a kind of professional excellence that excludes some people Jesus would choose? Is it an excellence that avoids the pitfall of pride? Think about what Paul says:
“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He 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.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, NIV)
Does our church definition of excellence exclude the kinds of foolish, weak, invisible and lowly things God chooses? If it does, how Christian are our leadership strategies? It would be sad to find our excellence being nullified by God Himself.