Unpopular Power

Only when the power of a personal experience exceeds the power of popularity does one persist in proclaiming the unpopular.

experience

Acts 28:22 But we would like to hear from you what you think. For concerning this sect, we are aware that it is spoken against everywhere.

When I was a school kid, I believed in sitting on the front row. I believed in math and science. I believed in straight A’s.  I believed in a lot that made me really unpopular. I can still recall the feelings of rejection and insecurity. Seventh grade was the pinnacle of this ostracizing and it’s when I turned.  I grew tired of being the kid who was spoken against because of what he believed.  So, my belief changed. I started believing in running with the wrong crowd, sneaking out of my house at night, drinking and smoking. Why? The power of popularity.  It’s still something that works on me, but to some degree, I think it works on us all.  We all want to be accepted, to be affirmed, to be loved. The power of that innate desire is enough to cause many to reject what they believe, to ignore personal conviction, to repress truth.

Oh, how I admire Paul! He was a man rejected and here we learn the very thing he believed and professed was “spoken against everywhere.” Everywhere? Talk about unpopularity!

Remember speech class.  Hated it, right?  The nervousness of thinking that everyone would laugh at you or think less of you after you fumbled your words and forgot what you’re supposed to say.  Put yourself there again, except this time the crowd is full of people who are a lot like you.  For me, that would have been a bunch of kids who liked math and science and sitting on the front row. For you, maybe the same, or maybe it would have been a room full of football quarterbacks or cheer leaders. Every one of them is as qualified as you to make the address, but you’re the one and as you take the stage, you begin your persuasive speech.  Your worst fears come true. Some get up and walk out, some sneer, some just laugh.  Could you imagine ever trying that speech a second time?

Only when the power of a personal experience exceeds the power of popularity does one persist in proclaiming the unpopular.

And for Paul, it had.  The persuasive speech was the Gospel, a Roman prison his stage and Jewish peers his audience.  Some walked out, some sneered and I’m sure some laughed at the ludicrous message of the Jewish Messiah a lowly carpenter who not only failed to conquer Roman rule, but was crucified at their hands. Does that sound like a powerful King? But Paul had experienced the power. A light blinded him. A voice boomed from heaven. Scales fell from his eyes.  The power of his personal experience literally bound him to preach the Gospel regardless of its unpopularity.

Two thousand years later in our western culture, the Message still seems ludicrous to many and it seems fewer are preaching it with power. Maybe each of us should pray for a deeper and more powerful encounter; our own blinding light, a voice from heaven and a personal miracle. The power of the experience may compel us with a new conviction and passion to preach an unpopular message in a popular world.

The Contrast of a Leader

“Men, I can see this voyage is headed for damage and heavy loss.” The Apostle Paul

The spiritual faith of a leader must supersede the reality he knows.

ship sunk.jpg

Acts 27:30 Some sailors tried to escape from the ship; they had let down the skiff into the sea, pretending that they were going to put out anchors from the bow.

I’m not sure who called the media, but the newscast was less than favorable. A local businessman, John, was painted as cruel and heartless after asking a large group of homeless to leave his property. They had lived there for some time supported by a ministry that had garnered permission to use John’s modular homes for homeless shelter. But the ministry had disbanded leaving the homeless on this man’s property to fend for themselves. John called me asking if I could help. He was being lambasted publicly by the news for telling them to leave and yet knew he couldn’t allow the homeless camp to grow on his property without proper supervision.  I agreed to help and a team from our mission took over with a timeline to close down the operation.

I’ll never forget walking into the administration offices of this ministry. The food, files, copiers, and Christian paraphernalia appeared to have been abandoned in a hurry. The leadership had simply walked out the door.  They jumped ship!  And John, myself and our team were left to deal with it as it sank.

This chapter deals directly with leadership.

First, consider Paul’s example. He is one among three groups traveling to Rome. There are sailors, soldiers, and prisoners.  Within each of these groups, there’s certainly a leadership structure in place. Even among the prisoners, a pecking order of sorts is common. Yet, Paul, belonging to the group of prisoners speaks boldly to all: “Men, I can see this voyage is headed for damage and heavy loss.” Scripture tells us the majority decided otherwise.

Lesson 1: The voice of a leader isn’t swayed by a majority of other voices.

Of these three groups – the prisoners, the soldiers and the sailors – which one had the responsibility to lead the ship safely to shore? The sailors, of course.  And yet, it is this very group that drops the skiff to escape the ship’s destruction. Knowing the structural integrity of your “ship” whether that be a ministry, a school or a business is certainly one responsibility of a leader.  When that integrity is challenged ignorance can be bliss, but for the leader who has a greater understanding of the stresses his or her ship can sustain, the knowledge of it can be a source of fear.  These sailors knew the ship was doomed and the fear of it drove them to an escape-attempt…from their ultimate responsibility.

Lesson 2: The spiritual faith of a leader must supersede the reality he knows.

Through all of this, Paul is instructing and encouraging.  He guides the centurion to cut the skiff free. He encourages the men to eat. He give thanks to God after 14 days of being lost and tossed in a violent sea.  Consider his demeanor.  What would yours be like?  When it seems the ship is going down, how will you respond? Unfortunately panic is typical.  Consider, though, that panic is almost always a self-centered response.  This type of heightened worry stems from a fear of personal loss, maybe even loss of life. Look again at Paul’s focus. He’s concerned about others; specifically, their safety, their strength and their state of mind.

Lesson 3: The focus of a leader must be  on those he serves more than on himself. Panic is not an option.

The many reasoned why they should set sail from Crete, why they should jump ship in the storm, and why they should give up hope in the end.

Paul voiced what he believed, acted on it and then enjoined others in his peace and confidence.

The contrast of a leader.