“My 21-year-old son recently asked me two very basic questions. I gave him my answers, but wanted the input of others. I know you are busy but would really value your advice to him.”
Those two questions about being a godly man and leader, if answered by him and others, could be the key to leading our Church and our nation, and yes, the world, to a new, sunlit upland field of hope. I believe that the role of a man in the family and in the community is a predictor of good or evil in the generations to come. Too many studies are now coming forth to show that a lack of what I would call godliness and true leadership in manhood is contributing to a rapid decay in our families today. This can only portend great and challenging days ahead. And yet−and yet−if there could be a glorious stand of godly men and leaders in our day, which may come from revival and which is therefore an act of God and which therefore is altogether possible and probably should we cry out in prayer for such, then fresh winds of holiness could sweep our land. Men of God would arise to seize the day, to leverage the power of an internal spiritual might, and our families, our wives and our sons and our daughters, would be spared lifted up. The soil of our nation’s youth would be enriched with virtue and a harvest of new men and women of God would follow
I would answer as I would answer my son, or as I would seek to continue to speak truth to myself. And I want to be as plain and simple and brief as your son’s question
- To become a godly man is to be in the Man Christ Jesus, through Word, Sacrament, and Prayer—oh, yes, plenty of disciplined prayer born out of love and gratitude to our Savior. This is a “long obedience in the same direction” that is nothing short of a response to the Spirit of God at work in a man. This is Christ being formed in a man. The outward, public appearance of such a man must be crafted by the Lord in the secret places. Thus a godly man is a godly man first and only when no one is with him but God. This is the womb of sanctification of the godly man—time alone with God. From those secret times of lingering before the Almighty in prayer, in earnest pleas for renewal, positions of repentance, and petitions to remember the covenant made to our fathers, comes the mercy of God upon a man. That mercy and Cross-shaped grace will then create a new man, a godly man, whose glory and goal is God Himself and whose beneficiaries of godliness are women and children and the very Church and community.
Thus a godly man is formed, in time, by God, through grace, unto obedience and virtue, with the blessings upon all.
Now, to be a godly leader:
- To be a godly leader is, in my understanding of Scripture, first, a radical separation from the “leadership” that the world so often suggests and peddles. As Jesus commanded his disciples that they must not lord it over others like the Gentiles, so we must not ground our understanding of leadership in anything other than Scripture and in anyone other than the Man Christ Jesus: “But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Matthew 20:25-28 ESV). Now, follow Jesus in forming that leadership and we will discern it more clearly:
(1) Godly leadership begins with being a godly man who has sensed God’s burden;
(2) Stands, out of a Father-Son relationship, resolutely on God’s values;
(3) Sees and articulates God’s vision, and refuses to admit any other means to achieve that vision (which “lifts” the burden) than God’s means. That means, the nobility and strength of love and power through weakness and dependence upon God, of respect for the weak and the small, of responsibility, of self-discipline that is hammered out through gratitude and pure love, becomes the mission, God’s mission that leads to God’s vision.
(4) Thus a godly leader resists the definitions of leadership of mere men, no matter how many great things they may have achieved in the world’s eyes, and models a new kind of leadership, a sacrificial leadership, based on the life of Christ—lived out with God’s burden, God’s values, God’s vision and God’s mission. Such a leader is thus truly a servant to all—to God and Man.
Years ago, Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote his Thoughts to Young Men. In what I believe is the tenderloin of the book, good old Ryle gives his plain and unassilable counsel to a young man seeking to follow God and to learn servanthood from the the Lord Jesus Christ:
“To live on Christ, to draw all from Christ, to do all in the strength of Christ, to be ever looking to Christ; this is the true seceret of spiritual prosperity. ‘I can do everything,’ says Paul, ‘through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).'”
Thank you for the honor of being asked. God bless you and your boy. It is a help to reflect on these biblical values today in my life.
- A question of character (4) (Jeremy Walker) (reformation21.org)
- A son’s moving tribute to his Pastor Father (headhearthand.org)
- When God Comes Down (Isaiah 64) (michaelmilton.org)
- A Guide to Godliness (goldenbible.wordpress.com)
- A Question of Character (5) (Gabriel Fluhrer) (reformation21.org)
- “What Would You Say to My Husband if You were a Young Seminarian Again?” (michaelmilton.org)