The Leader as Catalyst – Part 4 (Implementer)
This is the fourth installment in a seven-part series on understanding the leader as a catalyst. In the last three weeks, I have laid the foundation for this concept from a biblical perspective, so if you missed it, you should take the time to revisit those blogs. Today I would like to introduce the third of five key elements within this framework, each being a different role the leader plays within the community to which they provide leadership. These five roles are essential to catalyzing a community to embrace the Jesus way in both thought and practice. They are sequenced by design, each element being foundational for the next.
Third Element: Implementer (Define the Way)
It goes without saying that Jesus is the archetype of the One who establishes the way since it is His way we are talking about! He had a specific way of life that He expected His disciples to embrace. All of this was based on His interpretation of the Scripture – His yoke – which we have already discussed. Through His teaching, Christ created an expectation for His followers to personally embrace and live out a Kingdom-centric way of life. The message (the haggadah) was the euangélion, the Gospel of the Kingdom, and communicated that the King desired His people to live their lives in a unique fashion. The practices of that life flowed from what He taught:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:15-21).
The Holy Spirit is promised to those who, in allegiance, embrace the commands of the King. Accordingly, these followers are empowered to live the way of the Kingdom. Christ Himself, who is “the way, and the truth, and the life,” will live within them, living His way in and through them (ref. John 14:6). Christ Himself is the autobaselia, the Kingdom in a Person – and that Person now resides within us! So, Jesus has taught us about His way of the Kingdom, and now He lives the Kingdom life in us. He placed His “yoke” upon us and made provision through the Holy Spirit for us to meet His expectations.
After the same pattern, the Apostle Paul established the same level of expectation for those whom He was leading as disciples of Jesus. To the Corinthians, he said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul reminded the Colossians of the pattern of life he had given them so that they might follow Christ in His way: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7). There was a haggadah, and a halacha was to be embraced. Likewise, Paul shared an expanded thought on these things with Timothy, his son in the faith:
“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:10-17).
Jesus invited His followers to join with Him – He imparted His way by living the way with them. This is how He implemented His way of life among them: life-on-life. Life was and is the curriculum. He himself defined the haggadah and halacha of His way and then implemented it by living it with His disciples. Paul showed his disciples what the Jesus way looked like and gave them patterns to follow. As I have shared in my most recent book, we need to set the way of life of the communities we lead:
“Our second core principle is that the leader must be engaged in the “leading out” of others towards the Kingdom of God. There must be a people living a way of life rooted in Christ, the Kingdom community. That particular way of life must flow from the unique understanding the primary leader has of the Scripture and its application to daily living. The leader must codify and communicate their “yoke,” inclusive of the “haggadah” (story/teaching/explanation of the Kingdom) of the Scripture and the “halacha,” the practices and application associated with the Kingdom way of life as described by the leader” (Johnston, Tom. The Way of the Master: The Leader Development Methodology of Jesus (p. 233). Kindle Edition).
Regrettably, Christianity in the Western world has often been reduced to philosophy, something residing in the realm of thought and divorced from action. There is a disintegration of haggadah and halacha, something that was unthinkable and nonsense to the ancient Hebrew sages, as the TaNaKh, the Hebrew Scriptures contained each. That of the Scriptures was either the narrative or the commanded practices. Together they were an integrated whole for an integrated way of life.
The catalytic leader has a vision for the way, has an exposition of the way rooted in proper biblical exegesis, and must exemplify that way of life. The leader must become like Christ, an embodiment of the Kingdom. The doctrinal beliefs of a Kingdom community must be clearly laid out and transmitted to the community. The practices which make such doctrine real must also be defined in order to be lived. As both doctrine (haggadah) and practice (halacha) are lived out by the leader, the leader establishes the pattern of the Kingdom way, making it accessible to those whom they are discipling in Christ. Without this, the church will never be able to enter into the movement of God and participate in Kingdom extension.
So, dear leader, how are you doing at embracing your unique understanding of the Jesus way? Has it permeated your life so that it can be readily seen by others? Have you laid out the common practices your community needs to embrace to walk the way together? In what environments are you modeling these things, passing them on to others? Sit down, spend some time in prayer. Make a list of what the practices are, then figure out how you will pass them on to your disciples so they can pursue the Jesus way together.