A Letter to the Church by Jack Hayford
Today, I wanted to share a letter to all of us from Jack Hayford. One of the great features from The Mission of God Study Bible is “The Letters to the Church.” We were blessed to have some of our “older brothers” contribute some great encouragement to those of us who can learn from their journeys.
Jack Hayford serves as President of The Kings University (formerly The King’s College and Seminary) in Los Angeles, which he founded in 1997. From 2004 to 2009, he also served as President of The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. He is probably best known, however, as “Pastor Jack,” founding pastor of The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California, where he served as senior pastor for more than three decades. A prolific and best-selling writer, Pastor Hayford is the author (or co-author) of more than 100 books and has composed 600 hymns and choruses, including the internationally known and widely recorded “Majesty.”
A Letter to the Church by Jack Hayford
Written as an elder servant, to Christ and His Church—especially to the shepherds of the Flock of God and to all pursuing His Great Commission.
In this my 77th year, I am still privileged to speak to thousands of pastors annually. Their most asked question: “What is the secret to an abiding fruitfulness in ministry.” To answer, I acknowledge the essential touchpoints: (a) fidelity to God’s Eternal Word; (b) faithful devotion to one’s wife and family; (c) personal purity and self-discipline in all things; and (d) to love Christ’s people, humbly and respectfully acknowledging the worth of all who honor Christ, though they differ from my theology. However, I spend most of the time on the real “secret”: (e) to keep a life of personal worship and intimate prayer fellowship with Jesus (1 John 1:5-10).
I know of no better example of such a walk than the Apostle John. His long and faithful life, his spiritual impact, and his extended, faithful labors as a pastor and apostle inspire me. Often I have turned to his description of an encounter he had with Jesus late in life (Revelation 1:9-20).
Revelation 1:9-21 illustrates John’s applying ministry principles born of a life shaped deeply by a “Christ in you” dimension of Jesus’ leader-style being incarnate in one of His servants. I see these as the essence of the “secret” to lasting leadership.
I use the word “secret” in the sense the NT word musterion was used of spiritual truth generally unperceived until God reveals it to human understanding and individual experience; this is a sharp contrast to the common listings of “leadership tips” today. The nature of spirit-begotten molding and shaping of Christ-as-a-Leader in us does not flow from a corporate management textbook. But John, as did other NT leaders, learned and lived in the dynamic infused by the Holy Spirit’s presence flowing from Jesus’ lessons and lifestyle into the fabric of their lives. Textbook leadership-methodologies cannot substitute for Spirit-begotten love, sacrifice, and self-discipline.
JOHN—A Brother…A Companion
John begins with a gentle, personal, and tenderly sensitive tone, opening with a demeanor that greets his readers as equals.
“I, John, your brother and partner . . . ”
John has every reason to begin by affirming his apostolic authority but chooses to approach his delivery of so grand a disclosure of last things not as a distinguished leader but as “your brother and partner”—as one living life on the same plane as his readers. The utter absence of pretense or posturing is notable. His model leaves no room for posturing, manipulation, parading prominence, or treating “position” as though it elevated one over others rather than simply defined duty to be served as a steward without personal prestige.
“. . . in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus.”
John not only makes a ready reference to his own struggles, but does so in a manner that underscores his practical life as a believer. He, just as others, faced common trials and afflictions, and John affirms that the godly must face these things with “endurance.” His words assert the certainty of faith’s ultimate victory—enunciating the presence of Christ’s kingdom at hand irrespective of whatever present trial we are facing. His leadership models a living out and engendering in others a practical, realistic walk of faith.
John demonstrates a leader “fit for the Master’s use;” not only by faithful labor, but by a constancy of humility, marked by a steadfast pursuit of childlike spirituality; he was open, yielded, and teachable for a lifetime. It’s precisely that spirit that Jesus cited as a qualification for receiving the Kingdom; (that is, not only saving grace but an abiding availability to lead others to maturity within that grace—see Mark 10:13-16).
It is on the foundation of this and the above baseline traits of John’s character that the capstone of true leadership is unveiled. Childlikeness of spirit is essential to living within this secret place of ongoing renewal and fruitfulness because it confronts the common mistake of presuming “leadership” is essentially the fruit of an effective mix of intellectual acumen, social skills, giftedness, and public or platform presence. But whatever benefit any of these afford, truly transforming spiritual impact only flows from a leader who lives and serves with a total dependence upon and vulnerability to the Holy Spirit. His ongoing “glory to glory” metamorphosis (2 Corinthians 3:18) gives rise to our most needed leadership qualities, today and always: e.g., transparency of spirit before God; brokenness of self will; a contrite heart; an unabashed passion to know His heart and His presence; an absence of any self- sufficiency; a refusal of vain posturing or presumption of status before man. The evidence of these things having been worked in John’s being is evident in the rest of the passage, beginning with the words:
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day . . .”
Remember, John is an imprisoned bishop. His circumstance was one under hostile surveillance; he is subject to some labor as part of the Roman penal colony; any visitor to Patmos has learned of the dry, desert nature of the rocky isle. In this context, John—the spiritual leader—in a dry and helpless situation evidences the path to the fountain of strength for beleaguered leaders. Helpless in ourselves, there is an ever-present point of retreat. And thus is was, on a lonely Lord’s Day in a penal colony on a desert island, that John found a place of prayer and entered into worship and prayer he describes as “in the Spirit.”
Prayer “in the Spirit” may one moment be worship and the next be warfare. It is born of the recognition that the weapons of our warfare do not issue from human resources or skill. It is not the prayer of a reserved saint—nor the formal exercise of a person concerned about their appearance, their style, or the opinion of those preoccupied with arguing the form or acceptability of varied expressions of “Spirit-filled prayer.”
It is that place that is found before God when a leader or any thirsty soul comes as a child of the Father, resting in the Son, and opens fully to the Holy Spirit’s enablement in worship. As a result they step into the Throne Room of heaven. It is prayer that becomes effective, fervent intercession (see James 5:16b-18; Romans 8:26-27). “Prayer in the Spirit” describes neither a theologized style nor an emotional state. But it does define the chosen stance of a redeemed child coming before God. “In the Spirit” is a venue to be found only by those consumed with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, those with no self-concern distracting or reducing the totality of their quest for Heaven’s entry into a given setting, people, or circumstance.
Thus it is that John’s Lord’s Day intercession unfolds in a multiple “revelation” of practical truth, (quite beside bringing forth the book by that name). John describes a voice “like a trumpet”—a phrase that must be understood as more than a reference to volume. John’s Jewish upbringing gave divine authority to trumpet calls—alerting to instructive directions and awareness of an enemy’s assault (see Numbers 10:1-10). It was Jesus’ voice, but what occurs as John is alerted and turns “to see whose voice it was that spoke to me” issues in a dual outcome: an overwhelming confrontation by Jesus Himself; following which, John receives a clear and penetrating pastoral “word” to send to the troubled congregations under his oversight. The two outcomes answer John’s two primary needs: (1) his own need to be renewed in Jesus’ own presence; and (2) his need for resolving issues in the troubled churches he could not reach on his own.
John’s prayer-encounter brought a new discovery of the fullness of Christ Himself. John did not write verses 12-16 to report a vision but to relate an encounter, to testify to his being shaken to the root of his being. He unabashedly confesses, “I fell at His feet like a dead man!” (1:17). The reason is clear; not simply because of the profound description he so graphically gives (vv. 12-16); but rather, because of the depth of perception that suddenly burst over an apostle whose last physical encounter with Jesus was on the Mount of Olives when He ascended. Here is the Reigning Christ! And in that moment John is exclaiming, “I saw Jesus like I have never seen Him before!!”
Even in these later years of my own role as a leader, I walk in the light of John’s experience, declaring, “Lord, I refuse to bank on anything of my past learning, victories, or understanding.” The secret wisdom of lasting leadership is in resisting anything that takes Jesus HIMSELF out of the heart’s gaze, the mind’s rulership, or removes my self-measure from under His calculation, correction, and instruction. It is a call to all as leaders to resist the passivity of presuming we ever grasp even a full beginning of the magnitude and majesty of our Master; or to be regularly overwhelmed in His presence; a call to maintain that posture of soul that prostrates pride and rinses away any residue or habit that pleads for self-importance; that will never allow the potential deceit hidden within the suave, style-conscious, one-knee genuflection before the Almighty.
May God’s Spirit keep me—keep us all—”face down” as we keep looking forward to His appearance, with our eyes simultaneously on the fields white for harvest.