One of the most important things leaders involved with societal transformation need to focus upon is their own personal transformation. Because of our fallen state, all leaders should be in an ongoing process of inner transformation that deals with the root issues of the heart, mind and emotions.
In my opinion, this is the reason why Jesus spoke about the proper attitudes of the heart in Matthew 5:1-12, before He called us to function as the salt of the earth and the light of the world in Matthew 5:13-16. Only changed leaders can truly change culture!
By “changed leaders,” I am speaking about those who are allowing God to continually touch their hearts, minds and emotions so they better reflect Christlikeness. Unchanged leaders are those who are generally untouched by the Lord in regard to this inner life.
The following are reasons why I believe this:
1. Unbroken leaders will lead out of their own ego. All of us have seen driven leaders who lead out of fleshly ambition instead of for the glory of God. God said He would not share His glory with anyone else. Hence, if we are unbroken, then we are working for our own glory, even if it is in the name of His kingdom. Jesus said only the meek will inherit the kingdom of God. In the kingdom, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
2. Insecure leaders will stop the advancement of emerging leaders. Those who are not rooted in God as Father have their identities attached to their accomplishments. These kinds of leaders will always try to be the top dog and squelch the advancement of other leaders they fear will replace them.
The key for societal transformation is to create a movement that depends upon the distribution of labor. Insecure leaders are the least-likely people to catalyze a movement because they become a bottleneck, holding on to titles and refusing to delegate to other more gifted leaders.
3. Presumptuous leaders will do things God never told them to do. Too often in the name of the Lord, leaders will get involved in huge building projects or other campaigns that have much emotional excitement but no lasting results. The reason for this failure is because the leader is so driven to succeed they believe their own desires are the voice of God, and they do things God never told them to do. God is not obligated to bless what He doesn’t command. Yet these same leaders often get bitter at the church or God when their plans fail. At the very least, their fleshly activities often bring shipwreck to churches and whole movements, which causes disillusionment among many younger believers.
4. How can we change the City of Man if we don’t first model the City of God in our own context? Leaders reproduce the essence of who they are in society—their motives, spiritual power, goals and the like. Consequently, how are unchanged leaders going to manifest the kingdom of God in their communities if they are not modeling it in their personal lives, their churches, their businesses or their families? Whatever dysfunction we have in our inner souls, we will reproduce it to some degree in other people’s lives or the organizations we lead.
5. Only those close to the Lord will receive divine strategy. In order to disciple the nations and bring systemic change on the earth, we need to prophetically know and follow the leading of the Lord regarding His work of changing cultures. Communities and culture are so complex that only the Lord would know where a leader should focus to see the best results! Consequently, it behooves all leaders to be close to the Lord and to take much time with Him to hear His voice so that we will only do what the Father is doing and blessing (John 5:19).
6. Only Christlikeness can overcome the fallen world system. Our purpose can only be fully accomplished if we are conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29-30).
Since only Jesus overcame the world (John 16:33), the only chance we have to confront and displace the powers of darkness inherent in the world system is to be filled with the power and might of the Lord (Eph. 6:10-13).
We can have all the Christian lingo, revelation and Bible verses memorized, but at the end of the day, if we are not like Christ in word, deed and character and if we are not depending upon the power of His Spirit to accomplish the work of transformation, we will never be a match for the forces of darkness.
7. Systemic sin can only be changed by systemic holiness. Systemic sin came about because one person’s sin was contagious and became the norm for many other people, who then made it the norm for their communities, cities and nations.
Systemic evil can only be displaced by individual believers who walk in holiness that, in turn, influence many others to do the same. Eventually, they create a movement that displaces a sinful societal norm.
In the past, revivals have temporarily shifted the morality of a town, village or city, but we need to go a step further and empower transformed people to become the gatekeepers of society. They will then help change the systems at the top that can create a new (godly) norm that lasts generations.
May the Lord open our eyes so that we have a powerful move of personal transformation operating concurrently with a strong focus on societal transformation. Any so-called Christian movement for societal change that arises out of unredeemed fleshly schemes will only damage the reputation of the true church, which will perpetuate and further embolden the ungodly sinful systems we are attempting to change!
Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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