The phone rang in my office. On the line was the voice of someone I didn't recognize, but who clearly knew me. He didn't even identify himself. Instead, he launched into a 10-minute update of his life before I ever figured out who he was.
Actually, he was a student I had mentored two years before. I had spent many hours with him in my office. He had been in our home more than once. There was a time when I would have quickly recognized his voice. Not this time, though.
You see, I had not heard from him in the two intervening years between his time on the campus and that phone call. He nevertheless anticipated that I would recognize his voice quickly, and we would pick up right where we had left off two years earlier. He assumed that because I recognized his voice then, I would automatically recognize it now. I had forgotten his voice, though, because it had been so long since I had heard it.
Sometimes our spiritual walk is similar. We who formerly read the Word regularly no longer do so. We used to spend much time in it, but not now. Here are some things that can happen when leaders live this way:
- Their most intense faithfulness to God is past tense rather than present tense. That means they're leading today on the basis of yesterday's power. That kind of leadership seldom threatens the enemy.
- Now, they turn to God's Word only when they need direction, but they've often forgotten how to read, understand and apply it well. That often leads to trouble.
- They determine God's will on the basis of feeling and impression rather than on the basis of the Word. They claim to have heard God, but they've been very much out of the discipline of understanding His voice through His Word.
- They go to the Word only to confirm what they already want to be the case. They're not reading the Word, listening to it and following it; they're using it.
- They often ignore God's correction. That happens when you're out of the habit of hearing His voice in the first place.
The best Christian leaders I know long to hear God, and they engage His Word regularly. They continually have their Bible in their hand and heart.
Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This article originally appeared at chucklawless.com.
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