with Phillip Mutzelburg
Walking in HumilityIntroduction
I begin this discussion by teasing out some remarks I made on the subject of humility in the first article of this series, Identifying our Distinctives.
The nature of our humanity defaults to the dark side, and it creates a competitiveness in us that wants to get to the top of the pile and be the star. This is the exact opposite of what Jesus demonstrated, and highlights the difference between the example of servanthood and that of the chest thumping Pharisee who stands where all can see his bogus greatness.
This counterfeit prominence destroys authentic community, and isolates many leaders and congregants leaving them feeling defeated, devalued, and a failure. The level of devastation that
this God dishonouring behaviour causes is widespread, and nothing short of evidence that the enemy of us all is at work to steal, kill, and destroy at every opportunity in the life of leaders. Put simply, I see
this dark side of leadership as an extreme abuse of power.
One of the most common discussions I have had with church leaders during my time in vocational church work has revolved around feelings they have even in the crowd. They feel loneliness, pessimism, a lack of appreciation, and a disappointment that leaders without biblical humility create too often in the environment of church leadership.
When dealing with broken people in our congregations there is a level of grace given to the church leader which protects their heart from disreputable behaviour, as life transformation is taking place. But the assault on their spirit that comes with the self-importance of some prideful leaders is unexpected, and blindsides them and is therefore all the more damaging to the wellbeing of the leader.
A leader without biblical humility harms the reputation of Jesus in the earth, and reinforces the cynicism many irreligious Australians have of church leaders.
Biblical humility as a distinctive
We want to be a movement that is known as one where every leader is included and encouraged, and able to celebrate authentic community one with the other. We want A2A to be a safe place where a church leaders regardless of the size of his church, and regardless of how measurable their success might be can come and be celebrated for who they are, and for the sacrifice they make in faithfully serving God.
A distinctive is a visible distinguishing characteristic about a person or organisation. It is encouraging for us that visitors to our gatherings where leaders are together regularly make a spontaneous and telling observation about the environment of our get-togethers.
Consistently church leaders from mega churches, large churches, large independent ministries, small churches, and as individuals say we stand out in the Australian context as an all-inclusive group of church leaders who are comfortable in our own skins and enjoy an authentic level of community not commonly seen on the Australian landscape. I know Australian leaders who regularly tell me that the spirit we have amongst the church leaders at A2A does not exist anywhere else.
Least we become immediately prideful of these welcome appraisals, it is not impossible that regardless of the overall healthy environment, there is someone who feels isolated and dishonoured. We are doing ok, but we have not arrived. To think more highly of ourselves than we ought will quickly
put us on a slippery slope towards prideful God dishonouring habits that will quickly destroy what God has done in us.
Defining biblical humility
Humility is generally defined as unpretentiousness, modesty, self-effacement, and similar words of explanation. Biblical humility certainly contains all of these characteristics, but more. It is the more that makes the difference and gives us the key to the way we should pursue humility.
Biblical humility is placing our gifting, our strengths, and the power gained by our position in leadership in submission to God so that they are always under His control.
Understanding the biblical basis of humility
In the greatest sermon in history, Jesus includes a few lines about humility. Matthew records his words in chapter 5 verse 5; Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. This comment is the foundational thought that should effect all of actions in Christian leadership.
- Meek is an old fashioned word that does not have much usage in the 21st century. Meek is better translated today as humble. Meek in the Greek language had much imagery attached to it, it reflected a lion which had been tamed to perform in an arena, even though a lion can be trained to sit on a small stool, it still has immense strength and the lion tamer would not dare turn his back on the lion. It simply has its strength under the control of the lion tamer. It was referred to as a meek lion,
but you would never think of it as weak or insipid.
This is the biblical picture of meekness or humility. Humility is having your strengths under the control of King Jesus. In this section of scripture we learn that the person who puts their strength under the domain of the King [king-domain/kingdom] gains their inheritance. The implication is that if you do not humble yourself before King Jesus, you will not gain your inheritance. This is a law of the kingdom.
Jesus was the greatest example of humility. He had great strength and power yet he resisted the temptation from Satan to use it. As he approached Calvary in the moment of his greatest testing, He did not call down ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set himself free. He put his power
under the Father’s control and as a result he gained his inheritance and sits at the right hand of God today. And we are part of his inheritance.
- Failure to submit our power as leaders to God is the reason so many leaders are not successful, and why some who appear successful because of what they build loose it.
Peter wrote to Christians scattered all over the world with some sensational advice. What he said is found in 1 Peter 5 verse 5; ……All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
I say this is sensational for these reasons:
- Peter says put humility on like you would a set of clothing. It’s something you have to do. Then he tells us that our humility will position us to direct this distinctive towards others. He makes it clear that humility should be directed at others. Humility is meant to make others feel included, valued, and celebrated.
- Then he says something sobering. He says if you do not do this God will oppose you. I am not sure how you respond to this statement, but I know how I respond. I do not under any circumstance want to have the most powerful identity in the universe oppose me. I do not want the God who with a word created all things oppose me. It scares me to consider that God would ever oppose me. Much better to humble myself.
- None of us is perfect or ever will be this side of heaven. We are all capable of slipping effortlessly to the dark side of our nature. If we are serious about placing our strength at the feet of God, the same all powerful God who will pull us down will also extend grace to us.
I love the way David who let his sexual juices get out of control, and allowed his emotions to drive him to murder was forgiven and lifted up. There is only one reason for this. When Nathan counselled him regarding the ugliness of his dark side, instead of using his great strength and power as king and reacting, he responded. He humbled himself and David’s days following were even greater. That works for me.
Have you ever considered the delusional aspect of pride. Leaders without humility are deceived. They believe their own propaganda. They think everyone thinks as highly of them as they do themselves. They think no one notices when they are positioning themselves for the best seat at the table. They think no one notices when they drop a name, or look over your shoulder when you are in conversation with them. Most of all they think God will not notice.
Pride, which of course is the opposite of humility, is the single reason why seemingly successful leaders are brought down. In the decades I have been in vocational ministry I have seen great leaders on the national and international stage come crashing down. I have been
personal friends with some of them. In recent times one of the most prominent leaders of the church in the western world has come crashing down because he did not place his strength and power under the hand of God. God opposed him.
Peter finishes his thoughts on humility with these equally sensational words. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. This is the key to success not only in vocational church work, but in the market place, wherever God has placed the Christian to serve him.
Walking in humility
When God spoke clearly to the National Leadership Team in February 2017 and helped us to identify our distinctives, humility was not the entirety of what we heard about humility. The Holy Spirit talked to us about walking in humility. A form of the word walking is used about 130 times in the bible. It always has with it a sense of plodding along, travelling along, treading along through life. It has the feel of consistently doing something about it.
On that February day I am certain that the Holy Spirit was telling us to keep this distinctive of humility as a constant in the life of our movement. We are encouraged to live in humility so that we can continue to be a life giving movement to each other, and not a life
sapping movement to each other.
I believe there is a genuine humility becoming more and more visible in the culture of our churches. It is something to be guarded at all cost so that all of us can enter into our inheritance which scripture tells us is the right of every believer. I look forward to walking in humility with you all.