You Can’t Lead What You Don’t Live

Rev. Dr. Kevin G. Harney

December, 2017

My dad looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I’m telling you, son, never smoke. It is a terrible habit.” He was serious. He was firm. He was also holding a lit cigarette in his right hand as he lectured me. I had watched my dad develop a three-pack-a-day smoking addiction for my whole life.

Take a wild guess if I ever tried smoking. Of course, I did. I did what I saw, not what I was told. Do you have to guess the brand I smoked? It was the brand my dad bought by the carton and left lying around his bedroom, bathroom, the kitchen, and in his car.

As a young boy, I discovered a simple fact. You can’t lead what you don’t live. It is very hard to take people to places you refuse to go.

As a local church pastor, if I want to see my congregation reach their neighbors and friends, I must be a living example of loving the lost, engaging in my community, sharing my testimony, articulating the gospel, and seeing people come to a life-changing relationship with Jesus.

Sadly, I have learned that most pastors, church leaders, and denominational executives are not living out what they want their congregational members to do when it comes to evangelism. When I speak about outreach at pastor’s gatherings, the same thing happens over and over again. Leaders pull me aside and confess that they don’t do outreach because they are too busy, scared, or both.

Eventually, these conversations end up turning to the future. These leaders long to share their faith freely and lead their congregations well. They are hungry to share the bread of life with a starving world. They have family members, neighbors, and friends who need to meet Jesus. They want to go on a spiritual journey with these people.

"Spend regular and meaningful time with people who are still far from Jesus. Open your schedule. Make time. Make new friends. Be sure you are having human contact with lots of people who do not yet know the good news of Jesus."

At this point, we begin talking about steps they can take to move forward in learning how to live out the call of the Great Commission. I tell them what I would tell you. It is not that complicated.

1) Spend regular and meaningful time with people who are still far from Jesus. Open your schedule. Make time. Make new friends. Be sure you are having human contact with lots of people who do not yet know the good news of Jesus.

2) Pray often for those who need to meet the Savior who loves them. Make it a matter of daily, passionate, persistent prayer. Ask God to give you boldness and many opportunities to talk about Jesus. Pray for the hearts of those you love to be open.

3) Telling your story. Rev. Dr. Kevin Harney

4) Naturally articulate accounts of God’s presence and power in your life. You have many stories that are current, powerful, and intriguing. Talk about what God is doing in you, through you, and around you.

5) Share the gospel naturally and in many different ways. Practice telling the old story in new ways. In my book, Organic Outreach for Ordinary People you will find lots of examples.

6) Invite people to respond to the offer of the cross and enter an eternal friendship with Jesus. When God opens the door and you can tell the story of Jesus, ask people if they want to receive His grace and begin a new life through faith in Jesus. You will be amazed that there are people just waiting for someone to ask!

You can’t lead what you don’t live. My dad tried to warn me not to smoke. Sadly, he never showed me the way. He taught me the opposite of his lifestyle. In contrast, my first youth pastor and many college-aged men and women showed me a lifestyle of natural faith sharing. As a young believer, I got the idea that all Christians tell others about Jesus, and leaders do it most of all. It seemed natural. It was in the air I breathed as a new follower of Jesus.

My prayer is for you to become a bold example of faith-sharing. If every Christian you lead or influence were to share the gospel as often and as freely as you do, it should be a boost for the cause of Jesus. May it be so, with greater measure every day. Amen!

Rev. Dr. Kevin Harney is the President and Co-Founder of Organic Outreach International. Along with founding Organic Outreach International together, Kevin and Sherry have co-authored Organic Disciples, Seven Ways to Grow Spiritually and Naturally Share Jesus, the Organic Outreach Trilogy, and the upcoming book, Organic Prayer. Kevin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Monterey, California.

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