Every church and time has those passages of Scripture which seem to fade into the background of our daily walk as we give needed attention to particular and pressing concerns. May I suggest that one such Scripture is Hebrews 13:7. Chapter 13 ends the book of Hebrews in a crescendo of powerful insights including how the Lord will (no not and) never leave or abandon us (13:5), and its closing benediction: “Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, equip you with every good thing to do his will, working in us” (13:20-21). Nestled among these often quoted Scriptures is Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, . . . Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” What simple and practical Scriptural direction, and yet I (and likely others) easily overlook it, for the American cultural air I (we) breathe currently mandates that I (we) praise the “wisdom” of youth while mocking the insights of the old. This is “cool” and retro-60s, but directly opposite of the Biblical focus that would have us receiving blessing and insight from those that “lead us,” meaning older folks, especially the shepherd elders of the church. In what follows I seek to follow the simple, practical, and helpful admonition of Hebrews 13:7—“Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
I am so glad that Hebrews 13:7 does not say, “Imitate your leaders in every way,” for just like all of us, they are not perfect. Only Jesus is. Yet a life lived in the Lord over time becomes a visible light reflecting the Lord’s light for those newer in the faith. We benefit from “imitating the faith” of leaders in whose life we see the Lord’s longtime work of producing the fruit of righteousness.
So, having remembered our leaders, the next step of 13:7 is, “consider the outcome of their way of life.” How often do I consider our leaders’ way of life? Because I spend a great deal of time with our shepherds, their way of life is often before me. Without even looking for it, I have been impacted over the years by each shepherd’s fruitful commitments which at times “leap out” as matters of faith for me to imitate. Others who know our shepherds might see other aspects, but I want to focus on recommending and imitating what strikes me above all as something called “social activism.” By the word “activism,” I refer to a life-style attitude that the gospel of Jesus needs to be expressed in all of life. Their deeply ingrained gospel “activism” makes for a life full of social justice—so much so that I try to express it in even broader terms: social activism.
So one major aspect of faith which I see in FH leaders, and which we would do well to imitate is what I call their seasoned social activism. I say “seasoned,” because the leaders were “doing social justice” well before it was in vogue and a conversational hot topic. Further, the shepherds would still be doing “social activism” were it to suddenly become passé. This is because it is a natural part of their walk with Jesus. Let me mention four criteria which help me identify what counts as the shepherds’ social activism. They are activities that I have observed on the part of the shepherds which are: 1) constant: sustained over a long period of years, 2) conscious: involving their intentional participation, 3) consistent with Biblical aims, and 4) costly: requiring a commitment of time and at times money above and beyond “regular” giving.
What does their social activism look like? While each shepherd has their individual ministries as well as associations with established bigger ministries, I will present their activism as a group. Some do more in one area than another, and some areas might be their individual specialty. However, their work overlaps in many ways, with everyone being involved in some of the same activities. But the point is that as a group, they present a good witness for social activism for the body at FH. This would also commend their wives who help in the ministries as well.
When we recall that these are not sporadic works but sustained and characteristic social action, the encouragement is greater. Here is my non-exhaustive listing:
Feeding hungry (individually) as well as helping Second Harvest / the Bridge Ministry / Graceworks
Clothes for needy (individually) and additionally Graceworks
Visiting shut-ins, elderly, and the sick
Racial Reconciliation (individual)
Given to hospitality—a consistently open home table for fellowship and ministry
Focused awareness of and outreach to the strangers and outcasts of society
Entertaining strangers and foreigners
Promoting Christ-based unity among churches and Christians
Counseling couples and individuals
Praying consistently for the wholeness and holiness of FH members
Helping folks find work and at times putting jobless folks to work for a fair to high wage
Sharing of personal resources in many forms with the body and those in need
Hands on interaction with addiction/recovery community and support of several ministries
Working with those in jail or prison to get their GED and for fruitful reentry to society
Helping build housing for those in need (individually) as well as Habitat for Humanity projects
Heifer Project principles applied in Africa
Support for mission outreach of Word and deed to Muslim refugees, Crescent Project / Pioneers
Helping oversee Winyo Christian Academy education and orphans in Kenya
For the rest of the article please see the PDF file below:
Imitating Our Leaders-Social Activism (click to view)