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The Angel in the Stone and The Leadership Crisis in Our World….

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” –Matthew 16:17-19 (NIV)

In talking with my colleagues in leadership of ABC-USA and of other denominations, it is clear that one of the greatest challenges facing us is identifying and empowering leaders for the church in the years ahead.

Watching the Sunday morning news shows, reading the newspapers and scanning social media, it is clear that one of the greatest challenges for the US is the identifying and empowering leaders for the future of the Republic.

And in trying to understand and all the political upheaval in so many nations around the world – Lebanon, Bolivia, Chile, Iraq, Hong Kong and Spain to name a few—it is clear that one of the greatest challenges in the world is identifying and empowering leaders for the future of the church.

One might despair.

However, if we are to believe the witness of the Bible, God is already at work on this issue. Looking at the testimony of Scripture, we see that while there has constantly been a crisis of leadership in the world, God has continually identified and developed new leaders for the Kingdom and for the world. From an older, disgraced and subdued shepherd (Moses) to a little five-year old boy (Samuel) to a teenage shepherd (David) to a restless fisherman (Cephas who became Peter) and even a cynical old religious leader (Saul who became Paul), God has always been about identifying and empowering leadership for the future of God’s Kingdom.

And so today, as the church, the nation and the world face the same crisis, we can look at these situations with hope… with the promise that God will identify and empower leadership for the future.

However, let’s not forget the back story. While God was always involved in the calling and equipping of these leaders, God always used others to help prepare, identify and to release these leaders.

Maybe it was a tired, old priest whose best years were behind him, a father-in-law who spoke truth, a prophet who couldn’t believe what God was doing or the nascent church (in the cases of Peter and Paul), God always used others to help these leaders discover, learn and accept their roles as leaders.

But how do we… the modern “church”… do this?

Well, notice that Jesus in identifying Peter as the future leader of His church renamed him “Peter”…. “ The Rock”. Now part of this renaming was because Peter’s faith and confession was to be the foundation of Christ’s church… but I believe another part of this was because of the medium with which Christ was to work in forming him as a leader. Peter was a little bit stubborn and unmalleable in temperament and character after all. So, after he had identified and named him, Jesus began immediately to shape and empower Peter be the leader He wanted him to become.

It was Michelangelo who supposedly described the process of carving stone as “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

And this is the process Jesus used in shaping Peter into the leader of the early church.

And it is the work of the church in identifying, equipping and empowering future leaders… leaders for the church, the nation and the world.

We simply need to see the angels in the stones and begin to set them free.

And by far, the easiest way to do that is with simple conversations; conversations that were described at a recent leadership conference with 4 letters: ICNU … “I see in you…”

“I see in you the ability to do this job” or “I see in you the gift of wisdom” or “I see in you a humble spirit that lends itself well to…”

Conversations with others about the abilities and talents that God has given them will set people free to become the leaders they were meant to be. And these conversations should be positive in nature more often than they are negative. Yes, there is a need to identify the weaknesses of our leaders in order to help them overcome them, but in our world today we tend to become fixated on the weaknesses of others and reject them without seeing the greater possibilities. Too often, we in the church talk only about the flaws we see instead of strengths, abilities and potential. But if Michelangelo had focused on the flaws of the stone instead of the potential, the angel would never have been released.

There is a crisis of leadership in our world… but God has provided the product to address that shortage. We just have to see these leaders in their crude form and begin the work at setting them free!

Let me tell you what ICNU…I see someone who has the power to change the life of another and the world by setting others free.

Prayer: Lord, as I have benefitted and continue to benefit from the words of others who see you working in my life, help me to see and to share with others that which I see in their life. Help me to set the masterpiece that you have made in them free in order to bless others. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran

Executive Minister


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