"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9
Being a continual and perpetual person to learn and grow from the experience the Lord gives us is an essential element as a Christian and a quintessential aspect of the leader. If the leader refuses to grow beyond himself, if they turn their head from experiences as learning opportunities, and stick their tongue out at learning altogether, then they will fail. As a leader unable to herd others in the ways of the Lord because of arrogance and unwillingness to learn you will be totally ineffective in your personal walk with Christ. When we are not growing, we are not leading. Being a disciple means we are in a learning process, a growth process to become a better person for the Glory of God, and for the growth of our being.
Paul is calling us to a life of obedience and with obedience comes the right relationship with our God. Then that relationship trickles down to others as we lead and allow the virtues to flow from us. With obedience will come our peace with God, peace to ourselves, and then peace to others. And the virtues Paul gives are essential to learn and keep learning and growing in them so that they will remain virtues, or all they will be is poetry and pretty words with no meaning and power behind them. The virtues are not the end product that we are to shoot for, but the natural fruit of our walk with Christ, when we walk in obedience. Then we are prepared to do the work of our Lord as His people, because of the growth and learning we do.
Paul was guiding the Philippians by his knowledge and his discipleship by what he had learned. Above all else, Paul was an example for the work of the Lord. Paul had a deep heart and love for the people he was influencing because he was modeling the virtues of the faith by his growth and learning. Thus we must take the call and example as an imperative for the Christian life and mandatory for the leader. And the fulfillment Paul experienced can be ours, even in the midst of diversity and suffering, because of the obedience we have shown and the faith that strengthens flows from our lives.
Not too long ago in Southern California there were several news reports of dentists who were practicing without formal training or a license. Many people went to them because they were inexpensive, and that was very attractive in the inner-city. Can you imagine someone with a sharp object fooling around in your mouth without proper training? Can you imagine them using dangerous anesthetics and anesthesia without the full knowledge of their function? Well, a lot of people got to experience that first hand when they could have gone to several free and low-cost clinics instead, but for convenience sake, decided to take a risk and see the untrained and unlicensed dentist. When we take on a job or task and do not have the proper training or experience, we too will be treading on dangerous ground.
Of course we cannot have experience and education in all things, and if we expect that of everyone then a lot of tasks would not get accomplished in the church. So we must have a balance to allow people to experience and grow in new things, while at the same time allow learning and mentoring opportunities so people can learn in new positions and keep growing with training.
© 1994, 2001, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org