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Becoming ‘self-feeders’ and leading those around us to do the same

How often do we look to others to ‘bring’ the presence and anointing of God, forgetting that we can have it and ‘bring’ it ourselves? This question reminds me of the story of Deborah in the book of Judges. There are so many wonderful things to say about this passage of scripture, one of my favorites in the Bible, but I want to focus on these verses today:

Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go. But if you will not go with me, I will not go”. “I will go with you,” she said, “but you will receive no honor on the road you are about to take, because the Lord will sell Sisera into a woman’s hand”. – Judges 4:8-9 (HCSB)

God sent Deborah to prophecy to Barak about the upcoming victory over Sisera, a commander of the enemy’s forces, and to advise him on how to do it. God did not initially send Deborah to go into battle with Barak but that’s exactly what happened. The presence of God was so strong about Deborah that people evidently wanted to be around her. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all – the presence of God should be contagious, and it should be desired among us. God had anointed Deborah as a prophetess and a judge over Israel and this was obvious. Unfortunately Barak should have realized that the presence of God was accessible to him too! Again I ask the question: how often do we look to others to ‘bring’ the presence and anointing of God, forgetting that we can have it and ‘bring’ it ourselves? I believe that this is what Barak did – he rode on the coattails of Deborah’s calling and relationship with God and as a result lost the honor of the victory that was meant for him.

Secondly, I believe that this passage can speak specifically to leaders as well. Now, I am not saying that Deborah has done anything wrong here, but as leaders how much do we let others feed off of our relationship with God, unknowingly hindering the personal growth of those we’re leading? In a book I was reading recently I read the most interesting story of Bill Hybels who leads Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. Hybels made a public apology and rather than paraphrasing and running the risk of misquoting, here is the direct quote:

“We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have … taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.” – Bill Hybels

We need to intentionally teach our ‘flock’ to be ‘self-feeders’. Ultimately Barak received less blessing by feeding of off Deborah instead of diving into God’s presence for himself. So how do we as leaders intentionally teach those that we lead not to feed off of us? I believe that humility and getting rid of our own self-righteousness play a huge part. We need to have an attitude that does not elevate our status as leaders to an unhealthy level – those that we lead need to know that we struggle, that we don’t always get it right, that we need God and His word as much as they do! Bill Hybels says that we have to teach people to take responsibility for their own walk with God. How many people attend your church or bible study group to get their weekly ‘fix’ and continue throughout the week with no other spiritual food than what you’ve given them? We need to be teaching our people a) the value of reading the word and spending time with God for themselves and b) how to do that very thing and live it out. The number one best way to do this is to lead by example. What goes on in the head of the church filters down to the congregation and if we are not feeding ourselves and making sure that we are spiritually healthy, the people that we lead will suffer also. My prayer for leaders in churches and ministries all around the world is that we would focus more on equipping our people with what they need to have a living, breathing relationship with God without having to hop on our bandwagon and rely too heavily on us.

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