Consistent Leadership
2 Samuel 6:1-19; Mark 6:14-29

July 12 & 13, 2003
Pastor Wesley White
Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church
323 Fifth Avenue, West Bend, WI
262.334.2059 -

The fact of the matter is that each person here is a leader in some aspect of our congregational life. I have some areas where I lead, some where I question what is going on, some where I follow. The same is true for you.

Leadership is one of those categories that we sometimes try to avoid because we feel we are already up to our ears in life or that we have already expended some certain amount of energy and that is all we have to give. However, leadership is something that never goes away ­ even if we made a decision not to lead we are deciding who it is that will be leading (to not decide is to decide).

Since this is since an important part of our life, we need to take a look at some leadership issues that you will need to apply here at Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church as well as at home, at work, at school, and elsewhere.
We are going to be looking first at some negative examples of leadership that are still all too prevalent in today's culture and then to see what our United Methodist Church says about the basis on which we are to make decisions and thus participate in the leadership of the congregation.

To begin, we look at King David. David is one of our heroes. Joseph leads Mary back to David's city of Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. The new capital of Jerusalem that David won and invested with both political and religious power, is just a couple of miles from Bethlehem, an easy walk, and very much David's city.

But as you listened in on the reading of the scripture you heard a bit about David that is not positive. David has been going after the captured Ark of the Covenant to bring it to Jerusalem and connect the new capital with the old-time religion of his day.

However, they only get part way back to Jerusalem before there is a mysterious death attributed to an inappropriate touching of the Ark ­ Uzzah is struck dead for touching the Ark, even if that touch was to keep it from falling out of the cart. David becomes fearful and decides to leave the Ark behind.

Later David hears that the Ark has brought prosperity to the people with whom the Ark was left. So David now goes and brings it home to Jerusalem.

It is as if David is selfish enough to avoid the difficult parts of the faith and only pay attention to where he can benefit. This is like many a radio/TV preacher trying to get in a few bucks by promising some product that will guarantee you much wealth. We all have the potential for this kind of self-serving selfishness.

What would have helped David be more consistent in his leadership rather than looking for the latest technique to perpetuate his own power?

To jump ahead many years we next hear about the hated and dread Tetrarch Herod, son of King Herod who massacred children while trying to kill baby Jesus.

Herod was a poll-taker and a watcher-outer for his own continuance in power. He pulled every political trick in the book from inaccurate information to bribery of other officials to killing his brother so he could marry his brother's wife.

We need to pay attention to our favorite enemy as well as our favorite hero.

Herod threw himself a birthday party where he could dispense favors to his financial backers and solidify them under his control. One of those favors was to his step-daughter Herodias (or as some have called her, Salome) who danced a mean dance. He offered her half his kingdom, but Herodias didn't know what to do when the offer of a lifetime came to her. In her unpreparedness she ran off to her mother who asked for the head of John the Baptiser.
Having publicly stated one thing Herod had as much trouble as any politician in backing away from his promise and so he had John's head cut off to keep from damaging his own prestige.

What would have helped Herod be more principled in his leadership rather than look to the latest poll and put himself at the mercy of bad advice?

Both David and Herod would have benefited from a course in our United Methodist way. We know that life is more complex than bouncing with our own emotions ­ That wasn't good, I won't; Oh, that was good, I will; Oops, that wasn't good, I guess I won't; Just a minute, that was good, I think I will. We also know that life is too complex to leave to offers of a lifetime, there is no real decision-making or leading when it comes to such things as lotteries and other forms of gambling.

Our United Methodist way of leading is to deliberately reach out for four different ways of experiencing life and bringing them together. If they are all telling us the same story, we go ahead and decide in that direction. And then we stick with this wisdom when times are troublesome or easy; whether the majority are with us or against us; whether it is popular or not.

Listen then to the four qualities we believe need to line up before we are comfortable that we have a good decision and a basis on which to lead ourselves and others.

Our Book of Discipline affirms that we believe the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, is brought alive in personal experience, and confirmed by reason.

Scripture is primary, revealing the Word of God "so far as it is necessary for our salvation." Therefore, our leadership qualities focus on a disciplined study of the Bible.

To aid our study of the Bible and deepen our understanding of faith, we draw on Christian tradition from the beginning to the present.

Our ability to be leaders, even when grounded in Scripture and mediated by tradition, is ineffectual unless understood and claimed in our living. Our leadership must make sense in terms of our own reason and experience.

Christian leadership requires the use of reason, both to understand Scripture and to connect the biblical message to wider fields of knowledge and that understanding back to Scripture.

The interaction of these sources furnishes a guide for an excellent quality of leadership.

If David had used these four criteria as his own he wouldn't have been so on-again, off-again with the presence of GOD. If Herod had used these four criteria as his own he wouldn't be throwing away his leadership to someone else who had no idea of their own about what is important and what is not important.

The way we know to get consistent leadership is to bring together several strands of information to cross-check themselves. Life is not easy and neither is decision-making or leadership. But life is worthwhile and it is worth our while to make the best decisions we can and to be the best leaders we can be.

This does not mean we will treat everyone exactly the same (because not everyone or their circumstance is the same). It does mean we will apply these criteria of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience to each situation and come to the best decision we can.

While it may seem that this process takes too long, it has been proved over and over again that good process does pay off in the long-run.

As you go from here you are going to be a leader from Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church with the people you meet this next week. They will see your leadership and come to certain conclusions about this church that you are representing. They won't be looking at my leadership, but at yours.

May you be faithful in your disciplined study of scripture and be open to the variety of Christian traditions regarding scripture. May you realistically take in the situation around you and find a reasonable connection between it and scripture and tradition. May you put this all together with your experience of being human and come to a good decision.

You are called to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ. You are called to be a disciple of Jesus. You are called to be servant leader of Christ. Lead well and lead others to GOD, as Jesus had led you to GOD.

Gracious GOD, in whose image we are made, bless each one here with their part in the whole leadership of the church and the leading of unchurched people to you. Amen.