SteveMurrell.com | Reluctant Leader

Browsing Category Uncategorized

Discipleship / Uncategorized

A Three-Year-Old’s Theology on the Crucifixion

November 14, 2017

cropped Photo

NASHVILLE—Deborah and I arrived back in Nashville this weekend after an Asia and Europe swing that brought us from Manila to Madrid and everywhere in between. Glad to be back in time to catch the end of the beautiful autumn weather and to spend some time with my favorite little people, Josephine and Liam.

Jo’s parents have been reading her The Jesus Storybook Bible over the last few months, and it’s been amazing to see her fall in love with the Bible and its cast of characters. For a while, all she wanted to read were stories about Jonah and Noah (presumably because of the boats and animals involved). However, at the moment, her nightly bedtime request is to read the story of Jesus on the cross. It’s kind of difficult material to communicate to a three-year old, but the author, Sally Lloyd-Jones, does an amazing job.

A few days ago, William (my oldest son) was reading the story of the crucifixion to Jo at bedtime, and she asked him this question:

“Daddy, why isn’t Jesus wearing a shirt?” (Referring to a picture in her book of a shirtless Jesus on the cross.)

William: “Well, Jo, some mean people took Jesus’ shirt from him and put him on the cross.”

Jo: “We didn’t take Jesus’ shirt, did we?”

How do you answer this penetrating question from a three-year-old?

Technically, the answer is no. None of us were alive in the first century, so none of us were involved in taking Jesus’ shirt on Good Friday. But Josephine already knew that, and her question was getting at something deeper.

Somehow, at three, she already suspected her own complicity in the crucifixion. Somehow, she already knew the answer to the question she asked her dad.

Yes. We did take Jesus’ shirt. Josephine did. Her dad did. I did. We are all complicit in Jesus’ death—whether we live in the first century or the twenty-first century.

In the words of the hymn, “How Deep The Father’s Love“:

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finish.

Whether we are three or seventy-three, the most important reality we will have to confront in our lives is the fact that we took Jesus’ shirt. We must all come to the realization, “It was my sin that held Him there.”

But there’s good news.

We didn’t just take Jesus’ shirt. He took it off and gave it to us. He became naked on the cross, so that we might be clothed with his righteousness.

Isaiah says it this way, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord… for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).

As William tried to figure out how to answer Jo’s question, she asked another question:

“We’re Jesus’ friends, right?”

“Yes.” William answered. “We’re His friends.”

As sinners, we’ve all taken Jesus’ shirt.

But only Jesus’ friends realize whose shirt they’ve taken.

Only Jesus’ friends realize that the naked man on the cross should’ve been them.

Only Jesus’ friends realize that we were once his enemies, but now we’re his friends—not because we didn’t take his shirt but because by faith, we put it on.

Leadership / Uncategorized

Leadership is… Multiplying (Part 5)

March 31, 2017

The Multiplication Challenge

MANILA—How are leaders made?

Are they formed organically through a combination of life experiences, or are they developed intentionally at the hands of other leaders?

Though life experiences (and even more importantly God’s providence) do play into any given leader’s leadership development, I would still argue that leadership development must be intentional.

Leaders don’t just happen organically.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of an intentional leadership-development strategy, you might want to ask yourself why. It sounds very spiritual to say that we’ll just make disciples and leadership development will take care of itself organically. The problem is that “organic leaders,” like unicorns and Santa Claus, only exist in an imaginary world.

Discipleship is the obvious starting point of spiritual leadership. Disciples are the raw materials out of which we can shape leaders. Our primary objective is to make disciples—to help people follow Jesus, fish for people, and enjoy fellowship with other believers. But if we stop there—if we intentionally make disciples and don’t intentionally train leaders—our growth will either plateau, or it will crush our current leaders. Healthy discipleship growth will always threaten to overwhelm current leaders and leadership structures. The only way to solve this problem is to either stop growing or train and empower new leaders.

The Apostle Paul showed a serious commitment to training and empowering future leaders in both his writings and his lifestyle, always bringing young leaders along with him on his missionary journeys. Perhaps Paul’s most well-known disciple was Timothy, a young man from Lystra who traveled with him extensively and eventually become the leader of the church in Ephesus.

Part of Timothy’s leadership development happened as he accompanied Paul on missionary trips. When we first meet Timothy in Lystra (Acts 16), he is described as “a disciple” with a Jewish mother and a Greek father. At that point, he was not a leader; he was simply a disciple. That’s the starting point of all biblical leadership.

The next thing we know, young Timothy is traveling with Paul all over the world on church-planting mission trips. I’m sure Paul appreciated Timothy’s company, but I think that main point was to upgrade Timothy’s leadership through a mobile frontline internship.

While we don’t know all the details of Timothy’s leadership training under Paul, we do get some sense of the things that Paul was trying to impress upon Timothy as a young leader when we read Paul’s letters to Timothy (1 & 2 Timothy). In these fascinating letters, Paul gives Timothy some advice about pastoring the church in Ephesus, and reminds him of some of the things he had taught him in the past.

In both letters, we see a recurring phrase that illustrates Paul’s intentionality in Timothy’s leadership development: “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you”(2 Timothy 1:14; see also 1 Timothy 6:20).

Those “good deposits” that Paul speaks of don’t come to people naturally. They don’t come from random life experiences, or even reading leadership books or blogs. They only come when someone entrusts them to us; when someone takes the time to develop us as leaders.
Note: This blog was adapted from my new book, The Multiplication Challenge. For more discussion on leadership and multiplication, check out chapter 5, entitled, “How to Multiply Like a Leader.”

Blog / Discipleship / Leadership / Uncategorized

My Thoughts on the Election

November 8, 2016

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

HO CHI MINH CITY – Tomorrow will end one of the most bizarre and polarizing election cycles in American history.

The candidates from the two leading parties are deeply unpopular (with good reason). And Evangelicals are deeply divided over how they should vote—or if they should vote at all.

Considering that the Bible has little to say about electoral politics (they didn’t have elections back then), here’s some wisdom from John Wesley:

I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy; 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against; and 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side. (From The Journal of John Wesley, October 6, 1774)

Whether you will be voting tomorrow in the United States elections or voting in a highly contested election somewhere else in the world, here’s how we can take Wesley’s wise advice to heart.

1. Vote for whom you think is most worthy. A simple yet often forgotten point about voting. It’s your vote; so you decide. Don’t worry about the pundits. Don’t worry about pleasing your peers. Don’t worry about pleasing your pastor. Vote for whom you think is most worthy—whether they are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or a write-in.

2. Speak no evil of the candidate you voted against. In an election season when most people feel that they are in fact choosing between the “lesser of two evils,” it can be tempting to justify your vote by simply describing how “evil” the other candidate is. But as Christians, we are called to a different standard. Our words, even when critiquing a candidate, need to be full of grace. And our attitude should be that of humility—recognizing that apart from God’s grace, we are no better or less sinful than even the most corrupt and morally-bankrupt candidate.

3. Do not sharpen your soul against people who voted differently than you. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say: “I don’t know how someone who calls themselves a Christian can vote for _______.” If you find yourself saying or thinking that, I would suggest that either your circle of friends is too small—or that you’ve spent too much time on the echo-chamber of social media, where you usually only see the newsfeeds of people who think just like you. I guarantee you that people in your local church are not all voting for the same person. Even if you’ve wrestled and prayed over your decision and feel that it is the best vote a committed Christian can make, know that other committed Christians, who have put in similar thought and prayer, will be voting for another candidate (Ed Stetzer has compiled a series of opposing viewpoints from prominent evangelicals that you can view here). Guard your heart from pride and don’t allow the vitriol and disunity of the culture to creep into the church.

As I have said to my church on many election days in the Philippines, we may have a new president; but Jesus is still King. So let’s live (and vote) like it.