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Leaders born again into the kingdom

By AL EARLEY

Religion Columnist

William Haslam entered the Kingdom of God during a Sunday sermon in 1951.  As the preacher posed the Bible’s question, “What think ye of Christ?” Haslam’s eyes were opened to see himself as a Pharisee who failed to recognize Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit seized that moment to bring about new birth.  What is remarkable about this conversion is that it happened nine years after Haslam was ordained, and that he himself was preaching the sermon!  The effect of his conversion was so immediately noticeable that a man in the congregation stood and shouted, “The parson is converted!” and cries of “Hallelujah!” resounded through the church. 

Martin Luther had been a priest for twelve years before he declared, “Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered a paradise itself through open gates.” 

Thirteen years after his ordination John Wesley finally testified, “Dramatic accounts stir our hearts. But let us not overlook the indispensable factor: to lead people into the Kingdom of God we ourselves need to be part of that Kingdom.  (stories taken from Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit by Zeb Bradford Long, pp. 47).

When Jesus stated, “You must be born again…” (John 3:7), He was speaking to a man who was already one of the Jewish people’s religious leaders. Nicodemus recognized that Jesus had a spiritual connection to God that was completely unique in his life.  He wanted to find out more, but he didn’t want any of the other Pharisees to know he was interested in Jesus, so he visited Jesus as night.  Jesus was not impressed with the timid Pharisee.  If Nicodemus did not have a complete change of direction in his life, thus being “born again,” then he was not going to be able to lead others to experience the life transforming faith that comes with giving your life completely to Jesus Christ (John 3:1-21).

I think a lot of church leaders today struggle with having this full commitment, this “born again” experience, in Jesus Christ.  I remember I was two years into ordained ministry when God shook me up during a pastoral experience.  Before this time, I believed Jesus was my Lord and Savior, but I didn’t really trust Jesus enough to live that way.  After the experience I promised Jesus I would take Him and the truth of scripture more seriously, and it changed everything.  I found that my prayers for people had power to change their lives as I trusted them to God, and not my wise pastoral counseling.  The truth of scripture became a constant friend as I trusted God’s word to guide me through my life and ministry.  I stopped caring as much about extraneous things like church structures and denominations, man-made rules, and how I looked to my peers.  Ministry became amazing as Holy Spirit came to trust me more and more with His power as I humbly submitted my life to His will. 

As I look at my faith journey, I have had many “born again” experiences that have deepened my faith.  I gave my life to Jesus Christ when I joined the church at twelve years old, but there was much I did not understand about that statement of faith.  When I was seventeen, I had a powerful experience with the Holy Spirit that started me on a journey of faith apart from my parents.  It was a hard time with lots of doubt, but when I came out of it three years later, I was ready for God to call me into ministry.  In my 30’s God really gave me another rebirth as I realized I wasn’t living my life as a powerful witness, especially with my wife and children.  Our family made many dramatic changes then to put God at the center of all aspects of our lives. 

These are some of the highlights of my faith journey.  What are your highlights?  Take some time and do a faith timeline of the major spiritual events in your life.  What was God doing with each of those events?  Why did God wait until that time in your life to reveal Himself to you in a new way?  Who can you share your journey of faith with that will help you celebrate what God has done in your life?  Who can you share your journey of faith with that has no journey of faith, and you may be used by God to start theirs?

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, visit www.lagrangepres.com.