Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I'm Grateful for Jonathan Leeman

Perhaps you've not met Jonathan Leeman. Perhaps you've never heard him preach, or you've not read anything he's written. That's a shame. Here's a brother the church should be thankful for.

He's not famous... yet. And should the Lord desire to make him "famous," I'm pretty confident that "fame" will mean almost nothing to him. He'll take it as an indication that he has an even greater stewardship and responsibility; he'll work harder. But I doubt he'll be anyone or anything besides Jonathan Leeman.

If you read the 9Marks e-newsletter (current issue/archives), you've come into contact with Jonathan Leeman. He is currently the communications director for 9Marks and the lead writer for issues involving church discipline. He does those things about 8 hours a day. But he is the full-time husband of Shannon and soon-to-be father of two children.

Why am I grateful for Jonathan?

1. He is humble.

That's a precious quality. It takes work to cultivate, and even more work not to be content with being "thought of" as humble but actually being humble. One of the first times I met Jonathan was during his baptism at CHBC. I didn't know him personally, only by reputation. He had been a member of the church some years before Kristie and I landed there, and was by most accounts pretty head strong. He went off to Southern to study and his years there had by all accounts a dramatic effect on his life. When I met him, he was back to join the church and to be baptized. His baptism represented a very public and significant humbling. He was, in some ways, confessing a lot of growth, growth involving the changing of his mind and heart over the years. By the time I met Jonathan, two things were consistently being said of him: he was fruitful in discipling young men at Southern and he was very humble. That reputation was obviously well earned. The work of Christ in his life is evident, producing that rare blend of certainty in Christ but lowliness and opennes before others. I'm grateful for his example of humility.

2. He is fruitful.

I mentioned that a moment ago, but it deserves mentioning again. Jonathan is diligent and faithful, which works itself out in fruitfulness. His addition to the 9Marks team is a tremendous blessing. So much has taken place in the spreading and multiplying of that ministry since he has started. Workshops have been added. Newsletters expanded. Lead writers herded and disciplined (Jonathan, I'll get that article to you soon, D.V. :-)). The brother is pouring himself out for Christ and giving himself to this very quiet, almost anonymous, but tremendously important role. He's a great "Tonto" to Matt, Mark and Josh and the rest of the team... again speaking to his humility. He continues to disciple men, teach in the local church, and encourage others far and wide. I'm grateful for his ministry of encouragement in my life and his example of gospel fruitfulness.

3. He is sincere.

I wish I could find a better word than "sincere." It's a good word, but it's fallen on hard times as people sometimes use "sincere" as the litmus test for personal truth. That's a shallow use. What I mean here is that what you see is what you get with Jonathan. And, something more. His sincerity leads him to inquiry, discussion, and exchange. I remember the day Jonathan came into my office and dropped his rather tall, solid body into my poor little wooden side chair. Slightly nervous, but with sincere intent, he asked me to explain a comment I'd made about race in the office copy room. He'd just been passing by when I made the comment, but on reflection thought he'd strike up a conversation. He told me about how he didn't "see" one of his African-American friends as African-American or black. To which I responded, "Then you don't know him much at all; you're hardly a friend." I probably spoke too rashly (still working on James 1:18). But Jonathan, with rarest of sincerity, took it to heart. That began an ongoing conversation that Jonathan I pick up from time to time on everything from Earth, Wind and Fire to what it felt like a couple decades ago to be labled "an endangered species" (see here and here for examples) and how Christ changes all of that. He's been a tremendous conversation partner, full of questions, eager to gain, and willing to push back.

I'm grateful for Jonathan. I count him a dear brother in the Lord. I thank God for the gift he has made Jonathan to be to the church and I trust there will be a crown of rigtheousness for him when He sees the Savior on that day.

1 comment:

Jonathan Leeman's "African-American friend" said...

i too am grateful to God for Jonathan Leeman. He was the first brother to befriend me when i joined CHBC. And he was my first small group leader. It has been a joy to watch him over the years as he has fanned into flame the gifts of preaching/teaching/counseling that he has received from God. Soli deo gloria!