Editor's note: This is the fourth installment in a series of articles about Christians who rescue cultures. The first installment was The Servant; the second, The Courageous Coach; the third, Saving Our Kids. We hope that through this series you will be persuaded of God’s call for you to rescue the cultures you are in, that you will get ideas from the examples of others and that you will be encouraged to take action in rescuing the cultures around you.
Christians who rescue cultures take risks. Just think of John Wooden, the legendary college basketball coach we wrote about earlier in this series. Wooden stood up against prejudice at a time when it was the norm. As head coach of the Indiana State Teachers College men’s basketball team, Wooden refused a post-season tournament bid in 1947 because the tournament wouldn't allow young men of color to participate and Coach Wooden’s team included an African-American player named Clarence Walker. Wooden’s refusal to participate in the tournament occurred 20 years before the Civil Rights Act was passed in America. His actions in 1947 and again in 1948 helped open up post-season college basketball to all young men of color in 1949. You can bet Wooden faced considerable opposition and ridicule. This had to be anxiety producing and stressful. Some people probably shunned Wooden for it. His wife Nell likely felt pressure, too. What gave John and Nell Wooden the strength to persevere? We know the Woodens were Christians. While we don't specifically know how they coped, it’s likely that they turned to the Bible for strength, courage, wisdom and guidance.
Following are three ways the Lord provides help to Christians who rescue cultures and take risks for the Kingdom:
Be Prepared to Expect Adversity. The Bible prepares Christians to expect adversity so they’re not surprised. Paul reminds us inEphesians 6:12 that “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Stay Connected with God. Christians who rescue cultures stay connected with God. He’s a lifeline to them. The Bible gives us an up close view of this. Read through the Psalms written by David and you will see that he consistently shared his pain and struggles with the Lord as he cried out to Him for strength, courage, wisdom and guidance. In Psalms 5:1-3 David prayed: “Oh Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” Later in the same prayer, David praised the Lord and continued his plea for guidance: “Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house; I will worship at your temple with deepest awe. Lead me in the right path, O Lord or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow.”
Jesus frequently emphasized the importance of staying connected with Him to produce fruit. In John 15:5-8 Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing… when you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”
In John 17 beginning in John 17:20, we read that Jesus prayed to God the Father that all disciples will stay connected to the Trinity: “just as you and I are one… may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” Notice that Jesus said “may they be one in us (italics ours).” We are invited to be one with the Trinity, a community of three in one: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This unity of the Trinity points to a third way to gain strength and courage: stay connected to other believers who are part of the Body of Christ.
Stay Connected with Christian Community. Throughout the Bible we see the Trinity loving one another (e.g. John 3:35 John 14:31, John 16:14, John 17:1John 17:20-24). In Scripture, we also see Christians loving and encouraging one another. For example, David knew the bond of brotherly love in his 1 Samuel 18:1-4. We see this in John Wooden’s life, especially in his relationship with his wife. Nell was his high school sweetheart, the only girl he ever dated, and they were married for 53 years before she died in 1985. When UCLA dedicated its basketball court to Wooden he insisted that Nell be included and that her name appear before his. UCLA agreed and today its basketball teams play in the “Nell and John Wooden Court.”
We also need each other for guidance and to grow in Christlikeness. Several verses in Proverbs remind us of the wisdom in seeking the Proverbs 12:15. When others speak truth in love to us, it helps us see our character flaws so that we can pray about overcoming them and ask others to encourage us and hold us accountable in the process. This is key to developing Christlike character.
Is God calling you to be a rescuer of the cultures you are in -- your home, neighborhood, church, local schools, workplace, or other places? Pray about it, won’t you? To follow your calling, be prepared to face adversity, and stay ever connected with the Lord and with Christian community. If you do, God, who David described as his refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble, will comfort and guide you, and provide you with the strength and courage you need to persevere and prevail.
Jason Pankau and Michael Lee Stallard are co-authors of Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity (Thomas Nelson). Rev. Jason Pankau is president of Life Spring Network, a ministry that helps pastors and church leaders develop holistic, transformational, disciple-making communities, and he is the author of Beyond Self Help: The True Path to Harnessing God’s Wisdom, Realizing Life’s Potential and Living the Abundant Life (Xulon Press). Michael Lee Stallard is president of E Pluribus Partners, a leadership training, consulting and coaching firm that helps leaders develop “Connection Cultures” that boost productivity, innovation and performance.
Publication date: August 9, 2012