Leaders Hang Back

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged (1Co 14:29-31)

Hear me carefully on this one... Hanging back may not be something that immediately seems to fit with an eager desire to move in the spiritual gifts. And indeed there is to be nothing passive or fatalistic about our response to the Holy Spirit's stirrings in our lives or in our meetings. However sometimes we need to step back and see the bigger picture. Our gifts do not operate in isolation, but as part of the whole body. In 1Corinthians 12, in the context of Spiritual gifts, Paul expounds the concept of the body. Just as it is not good if one part of the body ceases to function, it is equally not good if the body becomes "a single member" - one gift, or more often one small portion of the total gifting, trying to do it all. It is in this context that our zeal to move in the gifts may need to be tempered with restraint. Not a restraint caused by a lack of passion to see the manifest presence of God in our midst, quite the opposite, a restraint born out of a desire to see them even more - as an expression of the whole body!

When I was a wee lad, I used to attend Scripture Union summer camps, in Scotland. It was at my first such camp that I gave my life to the Lord. Later on, I came back as a leader, and helped with the fun activities, sports, and spiritual input. As leaders, particularly during team games, we used to have a saying: "Leaders hang back!" or "LHB!" Whenever a leader got carried away with himself during a game of Frisbee-football or Ragger, and started to dominate the game, a cry of "LHB!" would go up from a fellow leader reminding him that the game was about the whole team getting involved, not a showcase for one talented individuals sporting prowess.

It is often the same in the church. Too often a majority of the work is done by a minority of the people. Too often, instead of being freed to move in their own spiritual gift, people look to the talented individual, the leaders, to perform that function. Too often the leaders are happy to maintain this status-quo, sometimes even accentuating it, seeking more of the spotlight rather than less.

It is into such situations that the cry of "LHB!" needs to be heeded.

Paul, when he addresses the issue of prophesy in the church, says that we call all prophesy, and in order for this to happen there needs to be an order and an awareness of one another. [This was the Corinthians main problem in many areas: they were zealous, but their zeal did not include consideration for each other.] Paul says "If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent." This is the restraint I am talking about, the restraint that makes way for another man's gifting, even though he is quite capable himself to carry on.

The words "let the first be silent" are in the Greek "o protos sigato." o protos, can mean the first, but it can also mean "the leader [the prominent one]." sigato also carries not the sense of a external prohibition, but an internal self-restraint. So without too much of a stretch this could be translated: let the leader hang back in what he had to say. LHB.

At our Life to the Nations Bible week, our Apostle, Keri Jones, shared on the fist night (and on other nights) a powerful vision and direction for the churches. He shared his desire for congregations of God's people where there is a "quantum shift" forwards in the Holy Spirit. Not just the same people moving in gift week after week, but whole congregations moving in Spiritual gift.

This is where the bar is set in the Scriptures themselves. For it is not where one man shines in his ministry that God is most glorified, but where the whole body reflects the head - each part moving as he directs.

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1Co 14:24-25)


carl said...

About a year and a half ago I was in a midweek service. At the end there was a time of prayer and ministry when I got a very clear prophesy. There were three parts to it and I was sure this was God.

I was standing there trying to figure out what to do with it when a woman busted out in a prophetic tongue. The room went silent as people were waiting for the interpretation. I knew I had it but the Lord told me not to speak.

I knew at that instant why. I had given several interpretations and prophetic words in the previous weeks and I could see that the Spirit was wary of people looking toward the "prophetic guy" for all things prophesy when, in fact, this gift is not relegated to a single person.

I stayed silent and two people came forward with the first two parts of the interpretation but nobody came forward with the third part, which was a warning. I knew I was to give that third and final part.

(Why oh why could I not get the exhortation and someone else get the warning?)

So I spoke up to the pastor and told him that there were three parts to the word and that the first two people were not in disagreement but that they each had the first part and I had the third. He told me to give it and I did.

I know that when someone more senior in the ministry tells me that they got the same word that I delivered, I am greatly blessed and my faith increases.

SLW said...

Excellent Chris! Often leaders not only jump the gun by stepping in themselves, but they'll take the meeting on to something else rather than letting the Spirit lift a novice past the threshold. Someone unaccustomed to speaking publicly for God sometimes isn't ready on the spot. Sometimes they need encouragement. If the goal is broad participation, sometimes awkwardness is the price.

Chris HH said...

Thanks, guys.

Carl, that's a great illustration.

Leaders are there to set a good example; good examples are there, not to be merely observed, but for others to follow. That's the balance.

You are right, it's a great encouragement when a word you bring is confirmed by someone else. It doesn't even need to be someone more mature. In fact I wonder how many times an opportunity for encouragement is missed because someone more mature than us brings a word that we had too, and so we just let it slip.

SLW, Another great quote:
If the goal is broad participation, sometimes awkwardness is the price.

If broad participation is seen as the means of God's ultimate manifest presence in the church, then the occasional awkwardness will seem like a small price to pay!

Ricky Carvel said...

Ah. Those were the days. Chickenscratch anyone?

Chris HH said...

Ah yes! The Chickenscratch. I had forgotten about those - they were the one-aside scrum-downs at the start of play in Ragger.

I also recall that Don Ranaldo was the king of frisbee-football. He must have received his fair share of "LHB!" in his time! ;-)