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The Mantle

All my life, I had heard about the falling of the mantle.  The story goes back to Elijah and Elisha. 

“And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, ‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!’ So, he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, ‘Where is the LORD God of Elijah?’ And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, ‘The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.’ And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.” 2 Kings 2:12-15 

My impression had always been that the mantle conferred spiritual power and authority on the recipient.  Once the mantle had been taken up, the bearer would do exploits, work miracles and exert great influence over the lives of people.  What I found was that the twenty-first century mantle meant greater pressure, more responsibility and made one a target for all the demons in hell!  This is not to express cynicism about God’s power, but rather to discover the flip side of a spiritual office.  We often visualize Elijah calling down fire from Mt. Carmel; we forget that the same Elijah hid out in a cave because of fear and intimidation.  Yes, a fresh anointing and confidence accompanies the mantle—and I did sense that new dimension in my ministry—but the knowledge that “the buck stops here” alerted me to the terror of the top spot.  I was now calling the shots, and if things went wrong, there was no one else to blame. 

The difference between the second man and the top spot boils down to who gets to say what’s what.  The second man knows the ropes; the leader makes the ropes.  The second man adheres to the procedures; the leader establishes the procedures.  The second man follows the protocols; the leader sets the protocols.  The leader then takes the flak, explains the reasons and defends his decisions.  That is a totally different ballgame than he played on the way up.   

In addition to these processes, unforeseen intangibles emerge from the leader’s biosphere, the most shocking of which is the church takes on the personality of the leader.  I became aware that my outlook on life, my demeanor, my values, my affections, my fears, my inadequacies, my dreams, my limitations—everything about me as a man—somehow wove their influence into the attitude of the church.  Fred Kinzie’s church slowly morphed into J. Mark Jordan’s church.  Of course, the church ultimately belongs to Jesus Christ, but the leadership He sets in place determines the tone for the depth and direction of the local assembly.  It is abundantly clear from the accounts of the churches profiled in the book of Revelation that the leadership shaped the philosophy of the particular churches of Asia Minor.  My father-in-law often reminded me that “everything starts at the top.”  Whatever style of leadership the shepherd displayed would translate into the behavior of the sheep.  Crudely put, the pastor creates a host of miniature clones running around following his orders. Scary.

I view these intangibles as enigmatic because a leader does not always understand the impact and repercussions to his or her personality.  I am more likely to explain my fear as reasonable precaution.  I may excuse my negativity as only being realistic.  But, the church is an echo chamber that bounces back whatever sounds it hears from the pastor.  It is a living mirror that reflects the image of the pastor.  The pastor who makes no effort to peel back the layers of his or her own personality will forever blame others for problems that manifest themselves in the church.  Even though I had an intellectual grasp of these principles, it took me years to see them and define them as they really were.  In the words of the cartoon character, Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

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