A Leader in the Kingdom of God – “Who, Me?”

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We are discovering that even leadership in the upside-down, inside-out, backwards world that is the Kingdom of God, is completely contrary to what we consider normal. So, the obvious question I must ask myself is, even though I may never have seen myself as a leader, or wanted to be a preacher or have anyone following me, “Am I a leader in the Kingdom of God?”

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Remember, all mankind—both male and female—are called to bear God’s image, rule the earth for Him, and reproduce others who will follow (Genesis 1:26-28). That unmistakably includes you and me!

I can see clearly that “leadership” in the kingdom of God depends entirely on the spiritual gifts that God alone has sovereignly given to each of His children, and we all have at least one (Romans 12:3). In my study on the Holy Spirit, “…And the Glory of the Lord Filled the Temple,” I cover all three categories of spiritual gifts in detail, but here I would like to mention only the seven “motivational gifts;” four are speaking gifts and three are doing gifts, at least one of which each of us possesses. Yours forms the basis of your leadership in the kingdom!   

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness”  (Romans 12:5-8). 

Since my recent fall, I have been 90% confined to bed. A long-time close friend has come to spend time with us to help my octogenarian wife, Jill, as she has to learn the role of full-time care-giver for the first time for a near-helpless patient. Watching this process through the lens of my growing understanding of leadership in the kingdom has been fascinating

Our friend is a gifted servant. Care, mercy, thoughtfulness and awareness of the needs of others flow out of her naturally and unconsciously. I watch Jill as she recognizes this and is learning to serve better. Our friend is leading us both into a fuller experience of her gift of serving as she just lives! “Who, me?,” she says. In this situation, she is an unconscious “leader” in the kingdom of God!

One of the advantages of recognizing the reality of motivational gifts is the ability to better understand those who are naturally different from us. Without this recognition, the reactions of other believers in the church to specific situations can be very difficult to comprehend and hence a cause of intolerance, disgust or disdain. These attitudes do not facilitate the church “being built up together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:22).

So, as you look at these seven motivational gifts, recognize yourself in this list somewhere (either one gift or a combination of more than one), as well as the motivational gifts of others you most struggle to appreciate. Recognize that God has created them and given them the particular gift they have, and though it is clouded by sin, as is yours, as you both learn to walk in repentance you will come to value the contributions those with other gifts make to the edification of the body.

The motivational gifts, with the Greek words and their definitions, are as follows:

1. Prophecy, or perceiving (speaking) (prophēteia—”The speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God” [Vines]). This gift allows the one who possesses it to be able to see issues clearly from a biblical perspective. He or she can see past fronts people may erect and perceive the true spiritual condition of that person. The perceiver is not easily fooled. He/she has a strong sense of justice, is concerned that God’s principles are followed in seeking answers to problems, and that sin is judged. This person is not swayed by pragmatism that may seem to be a solution but that violates a biblical principle. They can see right and wrong clearly, and  are open about personal sins. While having a willingness to suffer for what is right, however, the one with this motivational gift is often naturally intolerant and judgmental, frequently clashing with the one who has the gift of help or extending mercy.

2. Serving (doing) (diakonia—”The work of a servant” [Vines]). This person has an ability to see practical needs in the lives of others and has a desire to meet them. He/she finds joy in this “doing gift” so others are freed to function in their gift. Readily remembering others’ likes and dislikes, however, they often have difficulty in saying no, and, as a result, can unwittingly shield those being served from the result of their irresponsibility. This inhibits their spiritual growth. A servant’s own family may suffer from inattention and neglect as he serves others.

3.Teaching (speaking) – (didaskō–”To hold discourse with others in order to instruct them” [Thayer]). The teacher needs to validate biblical truth, to make certain what is true as he/she exercises this speaking gift. Characteristics of a teacher are: likes to systematize truth, and loves to research and report facts; emphases accuracy and organization of material for easy understanding and naturally does that well; has an alertness to detail, is diligent and persistent; loves to explain truth and feels that the answer to problems is a clearer explanation. As a result, the teacher can sometimes get bogged down in the letter and omit the spirit, unconsciously feeling that knowledge is all that is needed and failing to recognize that it is God who ultimately must open eyes to spiritual truth.

4. Exhorting or encouraging (speaking) – (parakaleō–to admonish, exhort, to call on, entreat, to urge one to pursue some course of conduct [Vines]). The one with this speaking gift urges people to full maturity and delights in helping others grow. He/she can discern a person’s spiritual condition, and can speak to them on that level.  They can give precise steps of action and can see a person as successful before they actually are, and then can encourage them with that vision. They have no trouble building others up, and long for harmony in the body of Christ. The exhorter needs feedback that this ministry is actually helping or will often become discouraged and will want to quit.

5. Giving (doing) – (metadidōmi—to give a share of, impart [Vines]). He/she can spot financial needs in the body that others overlook and wants to see those needs met. The giver desires to give to others quietly without public notice, and gives based on the Lord’s prompting and not man’s appeals. Personally, there is a basic contentment with basic necessities. The giver is susceptible to giving when God may be withholding for a purpose, i.e., to teach diligence, etc

6. Leading (speaking) – (proistemi –to set or place before, to superintend, to preside over [Thayer]). The one with this gift has the ability to visualize the final result. He/she can break down major goals into small achievable ones. and with the ability to delegate properly, he can inspire others to do the necessary work. Removing himself from details makes it possible for him to delegate the work to those he is leading, inspiring and encouraging them to do the necessary work themselves. By removing himself from details the leader continues to focus on the ultimate goal, i.e., he can keep the “big picture” in mind. Others tend to follow him because he knows with confidence where he is going and is not easily discouraged. The leader is very confident, has a difficult time thinking he is ever wrong, and frequently even a more difficult time admitting it.

7. Helping or extending mercy (doing)  – (eleeo—to have mercy on or to help one afflicted [Thayer]). The mercy extender has an ability to sense and extend love to the needy. He/she attracts people who have mental and emotional troubles because they readily empathize and understand those in distress. There is greater concern among mercy extenders over these problems than physical ones. There is also great concern that there is harmony among believers and a working toward that end. The mercy extender tends to think there is never a time to be firm, to draw a line, or to confront sin, and therefore often clashes with the prophet.

Did you find yourself in this list?. It is not the gift(s) you “want,” or that you “should have,” but the one you find yourself doing without trying or even being aware you are doing it! It is “like running downhill!” When we see this truth, embrace it and begin to do what we want to do in our hearts, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

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