Friday, May 6, 2011

"Carrot, Stick or Cross?" Thoughts on leading God's people

As far as I can see, there are essentially three ways of leading God's people.
You either lead them by shaking a stick at them, or dangling a carrot in front of them, or by helping them to respond to the cross.

The first two are much easier ways to lead. They get good results but produce bad Christians.

When you lead by shaking a stick, you lead through the negative consequences of disobedience. So you paint a picture of how God will feel, or what He will or won't do if they do not do what you are calling them to do. People often respond very well to this kind of leadership. Initially anyway. They respond out of fear. But fear has a way of draining people after a while. So most people will either leave or become very resentful towards both you and God.

When you lead by dangling a carrot, you tell people of the positive reward they will get if they obey. You paint a compelling picture of how God will be pleased and how they will be rewarded by recognition,responsibility or prosperity. While this is a better way of leading than shaking a stick, and there is much biblical basis for God rewarding faithfulness, it is very easy to manipulate people through carrot dangling. It can just be a more polite way of stick shaking.Carrot dangling does also get results for a while, until people realize that reward is not always cause and effect in the kingdom. Sometimes the rewards don't come straight away. Sometimes they get given to others before them. Sometimes they only get given after you die. So after a while people just get a little bit jaded by carrot dangling.

The third way is certainly the most difficult way to lead. But I believe it is the most effective, and long lasting way to lead. It's by urging people to respond fully to the full gift of Jesus at the cross. Paul led this way. "I urge you, brethren, in view of His mercy, to present your bodies to God as a living sacrifice, which is your acceptable service of worship." Romans 12:1-2.

Leading people, in view of God's mercy, keeps them free from responding out of fear. They are responding to God's kindness. They are not responding in order to get God's mercy, but because they have it. Yet it also keeps them mindful of the greatest example of Someone who gave themselves away - God spent absolutely everything on us in Jesus - and so people are held responsible before the cross if they are holding themselves back. The cross also inspires them to hang in there in times when they do not feel rewarded or recognized, because Christ endured the cross for the joy set before him. Leading through the cross sometimes gets worse results initially, but it produces better Christians for sure, and in time does produce results if you persist in it.

I know this sounds simple, but whether it is a call to pray, to serve, to give or to forgive, I urge you to motivate God's people through the cross. I don't think there is really any other way.

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