Run the Race Well

     I recently attended a Calvary Chapel pastor's conference at Lake Tahoe. It was absolutely beautiful. The lake was cold and clear, the sky was brilliant blue, and the air was refreshingly crisp. Every meal in the dining hall provided a commanding view of the lake and its majestic skyline, with snow-capped mountain peaks that stretched across the horizon. And as good as the scenery and food were, the teaching was even better.

     One of the speakers was addressing the ministry of Paul, how he began well, lived well, and finished well. And since I've been writing on Christian leadership, I thought I would include a few observations about Paul and his excellent leadership qualities. Excluding Jesus himself, Paul perhaps more than anyone else in history gives us the best example of a sanctified life. He lived utterly surrendered to Jesus and completely dedicated to Him in every way. He is a model of Christian living and Christian leadership. He continually pointed people to Christ, lived without compromise according to what he taught, and was willing to die for his commitment (and indeed he did).

     One of the teachers at the conference read this verse: "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Phil 3:8). Paul looked at his own life and said essentially, "Everything in this world apart from Jesus and His will for my life are worthless and good for nothing more than the garbage heap." His only goal was to grow closer to the Lord and to know Him fully.

     That unyielding pursuit of Jesus should not be endemic to Paul alone, but should be at the heart of every Christian life, and therefore, every Christian leader. Leadership in the body of believers should have at its very core the goal of giving men and women Paul's kind of undivided passion for Christ. Whether bankers or grocery baggers, ditch diggers or dentists, every child of God should be driven to please and serve their master, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and compelled by the love of Christ. As Paul continued to the Philippians, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me" (Phil 3:12).

     Christian leadership must be solely about bringing people closer to Christ. Can we have Christian business leaders? Absolutely! They are men that have been called to serve the Lord in the realm of secular business, to use their minds and talents in the market place to advance the kingdom of God by the resources placed at their disposal. Can we have Christian athletic leaders? Why not? These are athletes that have been given extraordinary physical and competitive talent to glorify God in the realm of sports. Can we have Christian women leaders? Of course. These are women that God has gifted to explain and exemplify the role of Christian womanhood to other women who need to hear what it means to be biblically feminine.

     Here's the catch. Christian business leadership is not about successful business, and Christian sports' leadership is not about great athleticism, and Christian women's leadership is not about feminism. It's all about Christ. It is about using the tools and treasures and situations that God has given us to advance the kingdom. Jesus must be the center, He must be the focus, and He must come first in all things. That is the essence of Christian leadership in everything from the pulpit to the plunger.

     If you're in a church or an organization that bears the title "Christian," but Christ isn't the head or the ultimate goal of that institution, then run away. Don't walk; get out. Evacuate as quickly as possible. There are too many counterfeits in this world. There are too many Christian leaders pushing a humanistic, worldly, consumer-driven agenda. We must cast aside every weight and burden to run this race, and if Jesus isn't the upward focus, we're in the wrong race.

     It's good to be home. The central valley isn't as beautiful as Tahoe, but it's where I run my race. And I run to win!