Free to Lead -- By: Kenneth L. Chafin

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 09:1 (Fall 1991)
Article: Free to Lead
Author: Kenneth L. Chafin

Free to Lead

Dr. Kenneth L. Chafin

Pastor, Walnut Street Baptist Church
Louisville, Kentucky

(This is a transcript of a message preached in Chapel at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on September 22, 1987.)

The larger context for the verse that I am going to use as my text and read is I Corinthians 9:19–27 (NEB).

I am a free man and own no master; but I have made myself every man’s servant to win over as many as possible. To Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; as they are subject to the Laws of Moses, I put myself under that law to win them, although I am not myself subject to it. To win Gentiles, who are outside the Law, I made myself like one of them, although I am not in truth outside God’s law being under the law of Christ. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. Indeed, I have become everything in turn to men of every sort, so that in one way or another I may save some. All this I do for the sake of the Gospel, to bear my part in proclaiming it. You know (do you not?) that at the sports all the runners run the race, though only one wins the prize. Like them, run to win! But every athlete goes into strict training. They do it to win a fading wreath; we, a wreath that never fades. For my part, I run with a clear goal before me; I am like a boxer who does not beat the air; I bruise my own body and make it know its master, for fear that after preaching to others I should find myself rejected.

My text is verse 19: “I am a free person and own no master but have made myself every person’s servant to win over as many as possible.”

I have now been a minister more than forty years. The more I minister, the more profound appreciation I have for the apostle Paul. Among the many things that I love and appreciate about the apostle Paul is his feelings about his role as a leader. He did not abuse his power and he did not refuse to give leadership. That is not easy.

The church today desperately needs leadership at every level, because people reflect their leaders. I once rode from Houston to Dallas in a plane with Mr. Ray Graham, who was a church member and a fellow trustee at Southwestern Seminary. He was the owner of a chain of very successful stores, and we began to talk about the leadership of the seminary and the leadership of our church. He said a very interesting thing. “Kenneth, I can go into a store and watch the clerks wait on the customers and tell you what the manager is like.”

I resented that because I never had a church that did everything I wanted. I’d never had a class that had done everything I wante...

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