Leadership and Influence

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I think one of the most eye-catching and thought-provoking things that God ever says to anyone in His word is found in Numbers 27:16-17, when He tells Moses, “Appoint a man over the congregation, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” No shepherd? What a mysterious thing for God to say! How could the congregation of the Lord be like sheep without a shepherd as long as God is on the throne? Isn’t he enough? Why is a human shepherd necessary…to God?

The truth at the center of this statement is as profound as the mystery that surrounds it. For reasons that are perhaps known only to Himself, it pleases God- it glorifies Him most- to accomplish all kinds of divine ends through human means. Although God needs no-thing and no-body to accomplish what he wills it pleases Him most to work His great purposes through His people.

God did not need human authors to reveal Himself, yet he chose to reveal Himself through the inspired writings of men. He does not need our prayers, but He has chosen to work His will in response to the prayers of His people. He does not need our money, but what pleases Him most is to meet needs and fund the expanse of the Kingdom through the cheerful giving of the church. God does not need human evangelists to bring the Gospel to the lost. He could do that all on His own if he so chose. Yet He sent Philip to the Ethiopian, and Paul to the Gentiles, and He has sent you to wherever you are and whoever you are with.

God is accomplishing His perfect, divine will through the imperfect human means of people like you and me. Although God is ultimately the leader and the Shepherd of His people He has chosen to effect that leadership and that Shepherding through the human means of His church.

The Bible doesn’t downplay the significance and necessity of human leadership. Almost at every point it is elevated and spoken of as critically important. This Sunday we’ll explore what Paul’s example can teach us in our own efforts to lead. In his brief letter to Philemon, Paul gives us some wonderful lessons on how to operate as a servant leader. He and Philemon are both leaders, and the book of Philemon is, in part, a conversation about leadership. This is an important conversation for God’s people to have because in different ways we are all people of influence, and we are all God’s human means for the accomplishment of all kinds of divine ends in the midst of these days.