The political and newsfeed outlets amp the rhetoric, people are tired of it, citizens anxious, mobs angry. Nobody with a microphone is dialing it back.
“Where are today’s statesmen?” That was Michael Brown’s op-ed question in The Christian Post….
But it was written nine years ago, in September, 2013. Brown bemoaned the derision and venom gushing from so-called statesmen thought leaders.
Yet his question is remains unanswered today. We look toward the politicians, to the rich and famous, to newsmakers or to our cell phones for the answer, which doesn’t come. Who are and where are those statesmen and women?
Where should a statesman come from? The elites and power mongers? The philosophers? Sports heroes? Do we elect, appoint or just draft them? What does a statesman look like anyway?
Are you a disciple? If so, your job description says you’re a leader.
Leadership in Christian communities fosters discipleship, and discipleship converts the trajectories of individualists and anarchists into servant-statesmen.
This leader role doesn’t require a Presidential nomination. But you actually do already have a commissioning letter. From The King. The executive summary for you is at Matthew 28:19.
You’re a leader who is at the same time a bondservant of Christ. Part of your duty as a servant-leader is to draw Western disciples in your orbit back to Biblical standards of performance.
For some disciples, leadership is explicitly in the mentoring relationships with disciples – think one or two.
For other disciples, like Small Group leaders, Pastors, business people, elders, trustees and such – it means leading a culture change for believers, away from modernity’s distortion of discipling.
You have more influence than you think you do. Moses, Abraham, Jonah, David, Peter and Timothy were skeptical too.
“All politics is local politics.”[i] said Byron Price, the Associated Press Washington Bureau chief in 1932. Choices and ideas are local, radiating outward into societies from leaders. Movements have a locus. In this case, it’s you.
Statesmanship emanates from discipleship because leadership has restored Biblical followership. In other words, disciples are intended to restore societies in discipling others.
Disciples have a lot of tools in the West to pull this society change thing off – the job our pastors do in educating, equipping and challenging us is unbelievably rich. The churches available to us, the intellectual resources available – all this is stunning in the largess we enjoy.
The problem is that Western disciples have been raised to receive, not to serve.
The missing pieces? You and me. Leaders restoring a culture that brings individual disciples up in Christ’s way of discipling. Yes, we need church gatherings, small groups and mission/ministry activities – those tools that are in rich supplies for us as disciples.
But we lack, dreadfully, ones and twos supporting one another as disciples.
In these twos and threes come the restorers of a discipleship that makes statesmen, rather than combatants. It is disciples who endure, take scorn joyfully, and speak Agape into a rancid culture. Even facing death, if that is the calling.
Who is walking alongside you in the regular stuff of life? The good and bad? Who really and truly knows you, and is cheering for you even in your darkest screwups? And you for them?
Whether your leadership is as a parent, pastor, plumber, politician or professor – whether you lead one, or tens or thousands – you, personally, have a destiny, commanded by Christ – to lead the disciples you oversee to develop as disciples – as Christ intended them to, and then they make more disciples.
Remember the opening about statesmen? The model Christ directed to change a world began with three men and women close and alongside him. Which then became the twelve, then the seventy-two. Notice where that led over the years, worldwide. A very few statesmen and women changed a whole world.
We need a return to that discipleship.
Disciples are surrendered servants. (Christ’s words, not mine.[ii]) A bondservant does what their Master expects, not what the headlines tell us to think and feel and wanna be.
Westerners do not like the thought of having a Master, nor of bondservant-ness.
But that’s the oft-overlooked part of the Gospel: Unconditionally surrendered, unconditionally laying down my will, unconditionally pursuing and following Christ in all my days and years ahead.
Disciples exist to restore unity and peace and joy in the world. I’m not going Age-of-Aquarius on you here. Biblical discipleship is designed to restore unity in a society because the resurrection has changed everything for us, and for those about to be around us.
Unity among Christ’s disciples is the first beachhead. We cannot induce a regional or national curiosity until we take the first ground. Our own ground, the ground under us.
Disciples set aside their petty agendas to serve each other. That’s going to generate questions in our communities.
So I serve now. And I deliver Agape (unconditional love) even when I am being cancelled, condemned and cast out.
“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”[iii] That’s the disciple’s mantra – the life of a statesman, lived locally, influencing – relating to – others.
Leaders exist to impart this new culture in disciples: Surrender – Follow – Transform – Agape.
That kind of life as a disciple is going to attract attention. Agape is going to cause a riven and ranting world to pause and ask you what in the world makes you tick. Which, by the way, doesn’t. The world doesn’t make you tick, Christ does.
The example of Christ’s intoxicating Agape among disciples will put the world to watching & wondering – and in strategic ways in imitating us.
Unity will not be found in political or social power, not in revolutions or identity makeovers. Discipleship is not world peace. It is leaders building communities of followers of Christ who provide unity in diversity, Agape in strife.
We’re the people who take the front end of people’s anger, distrust and fear with Agape and watch them become curious onlookers. Onlookers who eventually demand that you give a reason for the hope you have within you. That’s 1st Peter 3:15 btw.
But leaders have to re-start this kind of discipleship thinking. Today’s distorted discipling isn’t a recent problem.
“He was born in a Christian country, of course he is a Christian; His father was a member of the Church of England, so is he. When such is the hereditary religion handed down from generation to generation, it cannot surprise us to observe young men of sense and spirit beginning to doubt altogether the truth of the system in which they have been brought up, ready to abandon a station which they are unable to defend.” Those words were penned in 1829, by William Wilberforce. Member of Parliament and Britain’s slave emancipator.
We are not disciples because we are members of a church, or by way of family inheritance. We are disciples by being invited to follow Christ, then personally choosing to evaluate Christ, surrendering to him and following him – for the rest of our days.
This is the crux of this letter: disciples depend on leaders who will establish a culture of intentional discipleship – not simply church and small group gatherings. Discipling is in all that but it is primarily centered on twos and threes who are committed to Christ and to one another. No group gathering can deliver discipleship that way.
That kind of discipling culture has been largely absent in recent centuries. We’ve partially practiced discipling for a long time, so it seems normal, good and right.
Culture change is up to you, as a leader. And discipleship as we know it today needs a culture change. The Disciple Dilemma is not your fault, but the restoration of Biblical discipling is your responsibility.
Leadership actually leading a cultural reformation in Christian communities is the Biblical path to restore discipleship. And it is in Christ’s disciples that we will find our statesmen and women emerging in our society, ready to give a reason for the hope within them in front of a watching and wondering world.
We want to talk to leaders about the dilemma. Can we work on this together? Reach out to us at The Disciple Dilemma.
We’d love to hear from you.
[ii] Examples: Matthew 6; Romans 1, 6 & 12; 1st Corinthians 6 & 7 and 2nd Corinthians 5
[iii] Attributed to Abraham Lincoln