Unleash New Leaders

The following is the Monday morning sermon during the 2022 Biennial Convention by Greg Anderson, President of Inspiration Point Christian Camp and Retreat Center. You can also watch a video of the sermon at the end of this article.
In Paul’s last letter, 2 Timothy, Paul was coming to the end of his life, and there’s a sense as we read it that the end is near.

For people at that last stage of life, there often becomes an incredible drive to pass on certain ideas or thoughts, things they want to endure. It’s not a stretch to think, that as Paul was nearing the end of his life, he was doing the same thing. He was saying, “Timothy, remember, remember.”

2 Timothy 2:8-13 (ESV)
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

Among the Senior Objectives of our Church body is this one: Unleash—call, empower, and support young men and women to lead in making disciples and forming disciple-making communities. The word “unleash” brings to mind an intensity or a force that changes the landscape.

Paul’s letter is chock-full of statements regarding his current situation. Remember this? Remember me? In the middle of it stand these words: “Remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead.”

Remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead. It’s the truth of the resurrection that unleashes us; the resurrection of Christ is our motivation. We’re told that the very power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in you and in me. It’s in the lives of every believer. And because of that unleashing power, we go and we make disciples.

As we think about unleashing new leaders, the imagery that comes to mind is a baton pass in a relay race. I especially love the 4 x 100 relay. There’s nothing like it when it’s done well. It looks easy, but it’s not. Passing the baton can be a challenging endeavor. Sometimes the runner hangs on too long and won’t let it go. Sometimes the receiving runner doesn’t grab the baton at all, and it gets dropped. Sometimes the runners come in too fast or too slow. When done poorly, it’s a hard race to watch; but when it’s done well, it’s beautiful.

We see this play out in organizations too. Even in our churches, when passing the baton, people can move so fast that it causes problems, or so slow, or they get out of their lane, or they don’t show up. The fact is, the runners aren’t perfect in this mission that God has given us. We move forward in his grace.

So how about Timothy? People might have wondered, should he really be the baton receiver? He had some things going against him. Not only was he young, it seems he was also somewhat frail, and timid or fearful. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul mentioned concern for Timothy’s stomach issues and his frequent illnesses. We sometimes think, can somebody like that be unleashed?

When Paul was commending Timothy to the church in Corinth, he didn’t say, “Hey, Timothy’s coming. You’re gonna love him. He’s a great guy. He’s got a wonderful sense of humor.” That’s not what he said. He said, “See to it he has nothing to fear, for he’s carrying on the work of the Lord.” (See 1 Corinthians 16:10-11.) As we seek to unleash new leaders, remember that it’s less about a leader’s style, their smile, the way they like to do things. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

That’s the question. Is he or she doing the Lord’s work? Does that person remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead?

Church, here are some things that young leaders unleashed need from us: They need to know the wonders that God has done, his praiseworthy deeds, the stories of when it looked bleak and there was no way out, but God came through. They need partners and role models who are honest and transparent and caring and examples of what a faithful Christian life looks like. Not a perfect one, but a faithful one, a life that endures in Christ, that doesn’t give up.

Timothy was young. I think he needed help completing tasks, or planning and leading wisely. I believe he needed accountability. Paul knew Timothy. I think he understood him. He knew his shortcomings. He knew the challenges he would face, but he recognized how God had gifted him. He showed confidence in him. In his letters, he seems to be saying, “Timothy, God has given you something. You can do this.”

Young people: Don’t let the enemy tell you you’re too young, and don’t let him discourage you, telling you you’re too frail. Don’t be so timid that you don’t try anything. God has put things inside of you that your church needs.

So we listen, we teach, and we proclaim. We trust the Lord for the results. There are seasons when there’s no fruit, it’s true. But Christ tells us, “I’m the vine. You’re the branches. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (See John 15.) We as branches, stand between the vine and the fruit. My tendency is to look for fruit all the time, and when I don’t see fruit, I get frustrated. I look and look, but the more my eyes are on the fruit, the more they’re off the vine. I can’t have my eyes on the fruit and the vine at the same time. Church, our call is to remember the origin of our ministry, more than the fruit that comes from it. Remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead. That’s what unleashes.

The durability of God’s Word is without end, and it produces all the Lord desires. Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” In Isaiah 55:11, we read “My word… will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Our call is simply to steward the opportunities we have and to be generous in scattering the seed of God’s Word, like that farmer in Mark 4. He is not a very good farmer! He doesn’t plant in just the rich soil. He throws seed everywhere! Our call is to share and to spread God’s Word, generously, liberally, trusting him for the results. God’s unleashing Word accomplishes all that he wants it to do.

We enter a world that increasingly understands what Bob Dylan wrote in his song Broken: “Broken lines, broken strings, broken threads, broken springs, broken idols, broken heads, people sleeping in broken beds. Ain’t no use jiving. Ain’t no use joking. Everything’s broken.”

That’s a world that needs the gospel unleashed, with an intensity that changes the landscape. We praise God that we serve a transforming, renewing, restoring, reintegrating King, whose resurrection from the dead unleashes disciple-making lives, and disciple-making churches. There was no program or skill set for the fledgling Church, but the power of the resurrection transformed the disciples from hiding and fear into preaching and giving their very lives. As we go forward in grace, may God find us faithful, remembering Jesus Christ raised from the dead, standing on the durable Word of God, and relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit each day.

Greg Anderson is President of Inspiration Point Christian Camp and Retreat Center.

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