Often some of the most influential teachings we hear are principles taught by someone further on the journey than us. Robert Fergusson is a teaching pastor at Hillsong Church and an instructor at Hillsong International Leadership College. He is one of the wisest, passionate teachers I've ever had the privilege of sitting under; and he's not afraid to tell the congregation a hard truth that they won't like. These are some notes I took from one of his sermons, so I'm just the messenger here. I do not take credit for anything shared, but simply want to pass it on to you.
"An Audience With A King. "
There are basic principles which potentially carry from one person's life to another. I believe this is one of those principles. It's a principle we can trace back to the Old Testament in the book of Exodus. The Israelites have been brought out of Egypt and were traveling in the wilderness. We pick up the story in Exodus 33 before the Tabernacle is built, before Moses writes the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets, and before the Law is clearly given.
"Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent." -Exodus 33:7-11
So here's the question we have to ask: Why did Moses meet with God? Why is this story inserted into the story of Israel's exodus and becoming God's covenant people? I believe we find three key reasons Moses met with God.
1. Moses was a pilgrim - Moses lived in a tent. He had a temporary residence which was on a journey towards the promise land. Moses' focus was on the destination. He didn't build a permanent structure to meet with God.
We meet with God because we are to fix our eyes on the unseen, the eternal, the promise of what is to come. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, "So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." When we read our Bibles, pray, and worship, we are reminding ourselves that we are a spiritual people. We are focusing on the unseen and what is to come. Philippians 3:20 reminds us, "But our citizenship is in heaven..." We are pilgrims in this world journeying towards the promise given.
2. Moses was a shepherd - Shepherds live in tents. There is a big difference in the Old Testament between a shepherd and a farmer. Farmers built permanent structures and were self-sufficient with their lives. Shepherds were God-dependent.
Great leaders in the Bible were often shepherds; Moses, David, and Jesus himself said He was the good shepherd (John 10:11).We have to align our lives with The Shepherd. We have to become God-dependent not self-sufficient. Is meeting with the Shepherd a priority for you? Are you living out of your dependency on God? Or are you self-sufficient within your life?
3. Moses was a prophet - Moses was teaching Israel three essential truths in meeting with God.
i. This is how you meet with God
ii. You dishonor God when you don't meet with Him
iii. The future of God's people is meeting with Him outside the camp. It's a personal relationship God desires from us. He doesn't want us to live off of second hand experiences in corporate settings. He wants to meet with us "outside the camp".
We don't just meet with God for ourselves. When we meet with God we are setting an example for future generations. We are living past ourselves when we meet with Him and encounter Him personally. We set the example for our spouse, our children, our grandchildren, and anyone else looking to us. It's living with generational influence set in our hearts.
This is a Kingdom principle. It's not an Old Testament thing or just a pastoral or leadership thing. It's a Kingdom truth. If you're in God's Kingdom you have to put the King first (Matthew 6:33).
So here's the how to all of this. It's simple, it's basic, and it's exactly what Moses did.
1. Take your tent - take the time to meet with God. You don't tune up an orchestra after it has played. Take your tent and meet with God. Journal, pray, read the Bible, sing, do whatever it is, but take the time.
2. Pitch your tent - find a place to meet with Him. Know your place and walk away from what is distracting you. Moses went outside the camp. Get away from the noise, the chaos, the cell phone, the things which are keeping you from God.
3. Name your tent - naming something changes your attitude for it. Moses named his the tent of meeting. What's your meeting place with God called? Mine is simple, "my time with God". It's not complicated, just name it for what is is; meeting with God.
When we meet with God we honor Him and empower ourselves. Oswald Sanders said once, "Every one of us is as close to God as he has chosen to be." Meet with the King. Have a daily audience with the King. He wants to meet with you.
I was brought up in the church. It was never a question of, "will we be involved?" it was a question of, "what is there for us to do?" I didn't understand then how my parents were teaching me a very biblical example of leadership. As a young adult I continued to serve in the church in one capacity or another. I would play music, help set up tables for a dinner, get involved in VBS, and so on. I did it because it was how I was raised - serving was who we were.
The past few years God has taken me on a journey of seeing what true biblical leadership looks like. Jesus was the perfect example in every way, and leadership is no exception. He showed us that leadership beyond words you say and what title you have. Leadership is anchored in being a servant to all.
The best way I can share this is from a passage found in John 13. We find Jesus nearing the end of His life here on earth. As John writes, "Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father." (John 13:1). Jesus knew He was approaching the cross to be the ultimate servant of the world. In this moment, this time known as the Last Supper, we see Jesus teach true leadership.
"He (Jesus) laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist.Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him." -John 13:4-5
1. Jesus laid aside His outer garment: In order to lead we have to become genuine with people. Lay aside your title and be real with people. Find out who they are, where they've been, and what they need. Jesus didn't wait for others to serve Him, He served them first. He made himself vulnerable to serve others. Jesus' leadership wasn't about the shiniest name tag, the loudest voice, or having others serve His needs. His leadership was about serving everyone around Him.
2. Jesus took a towel and tied it around His waist: It's not enough to lay aside titles, images, and status to lead others. We have to take something new on; we have to place the title of servant on ourselves. Jesus didn't just lay aside something, He intentionally placed something else on and allowed Himself to be identified with it.
Leadership is about taking on the title of servant. If you can serve others you already are leading others. In your home, with your wife, with you husband, with your children, are you willing to serve? How about co-workers? Neighbors? Can you lay aside the title, the position, the attitude to best serve others?
Leadership is not spelled "my way or the highway" but, rather, "how can I serve you?"
1: the act or state of expecting: anticipation <in expectation of what would happen>
2: the state of being expected
"Expectation will change your experience." These words came from one of the wisest instructors that I had the opportunity to sit under at Hillsong. Even so, I disagreed. My first thought was, "No they won't. Previous experiences shape my expectations." I will be the first to admit how wrong I was. Our personal expectations have a lot to do with the experiences we will have.
I've been processing this more and more lately. It's become more of a reality to me with us expecting our first child in May. People's well-meaning "warnings" began to create fear and dread. Actually, for a short time I questioned whether or not we were ready for this undertaking. But then I decided to shift my mindset, and my new expectations have started to shape my experience. I'm now enjoying the preparation process- the baby registry, the room decor, the doctor visits. I know I am way out of my league in bringing home a baby. I know we won't know everything we're suppose to do. I know we will miss some areas of preparation and drop the ball here or there. I get it. But my expectation is set: this is going to be awesome!
I know that God is not a vending machine or to be manipulated like a puppet, "If I do this than You'll do this. If I believe this way You'll move for me in this way." I don't think God works like that. I do think God honors our expectations and continues to reveal Himself when we have God-honoring expectations. If we have little to no expectation of truly encountering God, chances are little to none that He'll move in a big way.
There's a story in the Bible about Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah had an expectation for God to show up in a very big way. Imagine the outcome if Elijah's expectations were shaky and small. Elijah stepped up, full of faith, believing God would do something only He could do. The rest is history.
"At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: 'Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you,Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.'" - 1 Kings 18:36-37
Elijah's expectation was God would answer him and make Himself known to Israel. I love this story. It encourages me to step up into God things. It encourages me to set my expectation of God revealing Himself every week. It gives me confidence God will continue to come through. What happened after Elijah prayed is my favorite part.
"Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, 'The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!'" - 1 Kings 18:38-39
Elijah's expectation of God resulted in people knowing who God was and responding. Expectation changes your experience. So what are you expecting to see God do this week? What are you believing for as a leader of His people? What is your expectation in your own life as you encounter the living God?
Last week I shared my heart in worship - I want to lead people to a place of encountering God. It's not something I just landed on one day or decided sounded good. It's a responsibility and privilege that I feel passionately about based on personal experience. When people encounter their creator, their lives are changed.
Abraham's life changed when he encountered God (Genesis 12). Moses' life was changed when he encountered God (Exodus 3). Samuel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah all had God encounters which altered their lives. The Old Testament is filled with stories of people encountering God and walking away changed. In the New Testament we see lepers, prostitutes, the blind, the lame, and a man bent on destroying the Church, Paul. When each one of these people encountered Jesus their lives changed, their purpose changed, and their eternal focus changed.
For me it happened in a one bedroom ratty apartment. I was by myself at the time and feeling very alone and depressed. My life was not going in the direction I knew it should be. I was angry, resentful, and depressed. My attitude lead to poor decisions making friends and how I chose to cope with life. A lot of my time was spent drinking alone, wasted,so I couldn't remember anything. Unhappy with the world and life, anything and everything would throw me into a fit of rage. Nothing in my life resembled a born-again Christian. Even so, by the grace of God, I never walked away from the Church. So here I was, alone, knowing what Christians looked like but not resembling one at all. That day I put in an old "Delirious?" DVD and just sat on my dingy floor staring at the TV screen. At one point the lead singer, Martin Smith, opened up his Bible and began to read.
"He said to me, 'Prophesy over these bones: Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!'"... He went on reading, "Prophecy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, 'God, the master, says, come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe Life!'"... "So I prophesied just as He commanded me. The breathe entered them and they came alive!" (Ezekiel 37:4, 9-10 MSG)
God met me right in that moment. I encountered Him as those words breathed life into me. My life was changed forever. I had a God encounter, right there, in a crappy apartment with beer cans littering the floor. Worship filled a place where only obscene language, crude jokes, and a looming feeling of loneliness once lived. Worship flew from my lips because in that one moment I encountered Him and He met me where I was.
I don't take lightly what we do. We have a massive responsibility every single week. I believe with everything in me, when people encounter God their lives are changed for eternity. We bring people into the presence of God where He meets them where they're at. We can't manufacture or replicate God encounters. We can prepare though. We can believe and pray every single day that people will meet Him the way we've met Him. We can step up every week ready to take people to the throne of grace where they meet God.
I used to think leading worship was easy. You learn some songs, make sure they flow together, and then stand in front of people and sing. It's easy enough when you don't have a proper perspective on leading worship. God has taken me on a journey the past several years. Along the journey I have learned the weight and responsibility of leading others in worship. There is nothing easy about it. In fact it's one of the most challenging responsibilities I have.
I am a goal-oriented type guy. Give me a goal and I will figure out a way to reach it. Let me know the direction you want to go and I will start running that way. It's how my brain works. As a kid on family vacations, I would sit with a map figuring out the route my parents were taking and if it was the best way. I know how to plan routes if I know the destination.
Leading people in worship has a Goal: Bringing people to a place of Encountering God.
Here's my struggle: there is not a clear cut road map for the end destination. I can't direct or control the best route. I can't guarantee the outcome is the same every time. My goal can't be manufactured or easily planned. There's no way to even know if people will step in the same direction.
Every day I wake up wondering if people will encounter God the way I have. I wonder if they will stand in His presence and know His goodness and love. I wonder if people will find their satisfaction in Him the way I have. I wonder if they will know God is for them and desires to have a relationship with them. Every day I wonder if I can, in some way, hold the door open for someone to step into His presence.
The Goal: Bringing people to a place of Encountering God
Here's where I am with The Goal. I cannot lead people where I, myself, am not going. I cannot take people to a place of encountering God if I am not encountering Him daily. There is no road map for this. It's about personal devotion to an equally personal God. It's about my worship to my God who loves when I spend time in His presence. It's about a life long journey and allowing God to shape me and use me.
There's nothing easy about leading worship. If it was easy everyone would step up and do it. The hardest part for me is knowing there is not a set route to leading people or a formula I can plug into. It's only through the very real presence of Holy Spirit that people Encounter God, and that's what makes the challenge all worth it.
"Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." -Hebrews 4:16