Keep learning to follow. 

Thanks for reading these posts from Hosea 4. If you’ve missed any of them, please refer to previous posts. As we continue in this passage in Hosea, God is still speaking to the spiritual leaders of his people and reveals he’s rejecting those leaders because they stopped following God.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
Hosea‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Having the high title of a leader doesn’t exclude us from being a follower. In fact, every leader must first be a follower. If we’re not following God and other successful leaders, we won’t grow. If we aren’t growing we can’t lead our people to higher heights.

More specifically, God reveals his priests forgot the law and therefore failed to follow his law. This is significant because God’s law was a guide for every portion of society, including leadership. His law was like guard rails that kept their business dealings, societal norms, and treatment of people in line. It provided a vital source of best practices.

Fast forward to today. If you’re a leader, pastor, or business owner, you will have greater success if you follow the principles that serve as guard rails for your industry or vocation. Whenever a leader fails or makes a mistake, it can be traced back to violated principles. Violations of ethics and moral standards, lack of financial accountability, or simply neglecting tried and true principles have ruined careers and caused the demise of ministries and businesses. Failure to follow sound plans and wise counsel is devastating also.

But that’s not all. After failing to follow God and his law, the priests decided instead to follow the crowd.

“They eat up the sin of My people; They set their heart on their iniquity. And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, And reward them for their deeds.”
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Eventually the priests and leaders began to follow and play to the crowd. When the people brought their sin offerings, the priests were happy because they could eat well. They set their hearts on reaping benefits from the crowd. The end result of following the crowd is that God said you couldn’t tell the difference between the priests and the people. At that point, the leaders were no longer spokesmen for God, but rather, acting in their own regard.

When we play to the influence of the crowd, popular opinions, trends and fads, we are no longer operating in our leadership capacity. When we chase the crowd we are no more a leader than a surfer riding a wave. The surfer can’t claim to lead the wave just because he’s out front. He can’t stop the wave. He can only ride it. We’ve all seen people who rode the waves of popularity to gain high positions, but faltered when it was time to step up and lead in earnest.

Let me close by saying, leaders should be followers of leadership, followers of God, and followers of principles, instead of following the crowd. If you have ideas to share about this subject I’d love to hear from you. Please consider leaving a comment and sharing this post with others.

Keep learning about the community. 

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”‭‭Hosea‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

None of us want to be the leader that God rejects because we rejected knowledge. Here is a critical piece of knowledge we tend to neglect; knowledge about the community. Our leadership impact will be measured by how well we reach those around us. If we do not investigate the needs of our communities, we will limit our effectiveness.

One of the reasons we reject knowledge about the community is we think we already know. But the truth is, we only know the part that’s in front of us. Let me explain. Before I became pastor of our church, I served for ten years as an associate, youth minister, and assistant pastor. After ten years of doing ministry in Tuskegee, Alabama, you’d think I would have an accurate picture of the makeup of the community. However, I was completely clueless.

Once I became pastor, I decided to learn more about the city and county. So I looked up the census data online. Here’s what I learned:

1. The population was on the decline. 

2. More than half the households were single parent or single grandparent. 

3. More than half the county lived below the poverty level. 

4. Those 45 and younger made up the majority. 

5. The median income is around $40,000. 

I couldn’t see these truths from within the confines of our church and the circles with which I associated. Gaining this knowledge helped me shape our church ministry. Here is the strategy we used to increase our effectiveness as a result of this data. 

1. Since the population was on the decline ( losing nearly 5000 people between the year 2000 and 2010 ) we began to focus on outreach. When I became pastor we had roughly 170 members. In the next two years we lost approximately 30 members. We’ve created an inviting culture at church and are now a 200 member church. The community is still on the decline but we’re still seeing steady growth. 

2. To address the single family households we began to preach more about healthy families. This means we focus on helping families grow from where they are, rather than making them feel guilty about not being an ideal family (father, mother, and kids). Single parents in our church feel supported and encouraged because they know their past is behind them and God can shape the future for them and their children. 

3. Our outreaches are more effective now because we focus on real needs, not perceived needs in the community. Because of the poverty statistics and single parent household statistics, we have partnered with the local food pantry to provide groceries for families, and we have school supply and Christmas toy drives to help the parents. 

4. Knowing the majority of the community is 45 and below, we began to change our worship services to appeal to that demographic. Which means, my sermons are always less than 45 minutes ( between 25 and 35 minutes) because the attention span in this age group is short. We’re also using social media and our website to engage them and be more accessible. 

5. Knowing the median income level we have realistic ideas about our church contributions. We stopped preaching about tithes and offerings. Don’t get me wrong, we teach the concept, but instead, we preach more about generosity. Oh, and any salaries we provide are based on real knowledge and reasonable expectations. 

This is just a small sample of the things I’ve considered about our community. Your community may be vastly different from ours. You may have a large Hispanic population and benefit from hosting Spanish to English classes at your church. You may have a large retiree group that needs certain services your church can provide. Your church may need to adopt a nearby school to help positively influence students, parents, and teachers. 

I encourage you to do the homework. Look up your community data. Have conversations with community leaders. Meet your city councilman. Visit your chamber of commerce. Then apply what you learn to help grow your influence. 

Keep learning about culture. 

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This verse makes me shudder. As a minister and leader, I would be horrified to hear God say he would reject me from being his servant. The thing that’s most telling though is his reason why; because the priests in Hosea’s day had rejected knowledge. I believe the rejection of knowledge today, by leaders, is causing us to lose true effectiveness in reaching our target market. So for a few weeks, I’d like to encourage you to keep learning.

Learning about the evolution of culture is one of the key areas where we falter. For some reason as adults, we reach a point where we no longer desire to keep up with changes in culture. Some of us actually get stuck in a particular decade. We loved the 70’s or 80’s so we dress like that time period and we wish everything could go back the way they use to be. We end up viewing our leadership through the lenses of our preferred culture rather than the prevailing culture.

Why is that significant? Because we limit our effectiveness when we limit our understanding of cultural relevance. For example, the smartphone market was dominated by Blackberry, who made phones that catered to businesses. Apple didn’t have a phone at all. But when they produced the iPhone, that catered to the prevailing culture, Apple grew to dominate the market and is now one of the top 5 brands in the world. Just last year Apple was offering to buy parts of Blackberry in anticipation of their demise. As culture shifts, we must shift in our leadership and methods. Otherwise our businesses and churches will end up like Blackberry.

We can’t lead millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) the way we lead baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964). This is important because the millennials are now the single largest generation in America. Their culture is totally different from older groups and extremely diverse. Their attitudes about lifestyles, finances, personal fulfillment, entertainment, brand loyalty, leadership, and spirituality are more opened than previous generations. Which means, our methods for reaching them will need to change.

So what should we do? We should learn about the culture. Instead of putting it down, rejecting it, or dismissing it, we should try our best to understand it from their point of view. Learn why certain issues are important to them. Learn what elements of your existing culture are foreign to them (and not be offended). Listen to and value their opinions without judging them. Be willing to make reasonable changes to become culturally relevant. Allow them to participate in a meaningful way. Let them help you reach their peers. Be willing to explain your own culture only after you’ve listened, and only if your current culture will help them.

I leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul.

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”
‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭9:19-23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬