The Cost of Christian Leadership

Part III of our series on Making Disciples

When it comes to discipleship, what is seldom noted is the amazingly high cost of this philanthropy to the teacher. In the Old Testament model – which Jesus himself embodied as we discovered in our last two posts – it is the students who receive the benefits as the teachers self-empty completely into them.

Paul is quite emphatic about this in his passionate letter to the Corinthian church.

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings—and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.

We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!

To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly.

Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. (1 Corinthians 4:8–13)

It’s very touching when you see the personal cost paid by the teacher in the Work of Mercy of making disciples.

Teachers who grow to fullness in Christ empty themselves fully into their students, and that’s how students come to understand the graciousness of God and the trustworthiness of his love. And students are called to respond by going and doing likewise, at the cost of their own lives, just like Elijah did in passing on the prophet’s mantle to Elisha.

There’s a deep, moving loyalty here. Check out 2 Kings 2:1-14, our story to learn for the week:

Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.  

And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”

So they went down to Bethel.  And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?”

And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”

Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”

So they came to Jericho. The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?”

And he answered, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”

Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”

So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.”

And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”

And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”

And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.

Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water,(R) the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.

The disciple becomes the disciple-maker as the LORD, the God of Elijah, becomes to the next generation the LORD, the God of Elisha.

For whom will the LORD be your God?  Are you passing on to others what has been passed on to you?  If so, how are you training them to do the same?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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