Lessons from Francis I

As a non-Catholic follower of Christ, I am intrigued by Pope Francis. He seems to have little interest in the trappings of power and wealth that have characterized his position for centuries.  A Pope carrying his own suitcase seems out of place. The Vicar of Rome beginning his tenure by asking for prayer for himself is abnormal. The leader of the Catholic Church wearing simple garments looks out of place. He reminds me more of Mother Theresa than any of the previous Popes I have observed. I wonder how a man who lives simply and humbly will change the character of the papacy, not only during his time as Pope but for all who follow him.

But apart from any precedence he may set for the Catholic Church, this Pope provides an example that should make the rest of us pause and evaluate ourselves and our own churches.

How comfortable have we in the American church, particularly in suburbs and other pockets of wealth, become with power and affluence? Have we lost identification with the poor that Jesus commended in the Sermon on the Mount? Aren’t most of us laying up treasures on earth for ourselves rather than treasures in heaven? How can we justify our excesses when most of the world lives in hunger and poverty? This Pope forces me to reflect on my own greed and recognize that many American churches fail to preach and practice the generosity of the early church. (Try reading Acts 4:32-37.)

How many of us as church leaders are truly servants—a requirement for leadership in God’s kingdom (Matt. 20:20-28)? Is there something in all of us that likes following people who live for themselves—whether they are Popes, Pastors, or church celebrities? Maybe we feel they give us license to live selfishly too. Jesus’s call to die to ourselves as he did doesn’t really ring true to today’s Christianity.

I am blown away by the impact that someone who attempts to live as Jesus did is able to have in our world. Someone like Mother Theresa and so far this new Pope get a lot of attention by reflecting rare qualities of humility, love, service, and unselfishness—characteristics of Jesus.

I wonder how much more effective the voice of the church would be if we lived out the principles of Jesus. I am hopeful about Francis’s positive influence within his church, and I pray that we are humble enough as non-Catholics to let his example teach us something also.

Kay is a life-long Texan whose favorites are Tex-Mex, books that feed her soul or make her think, good movies and travel to new places. Her great joy is to serve God by teaching the Bible and developing women as servant-leaders. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Beyond Ordinary Women Ministries, which provides free videos, podcasts and articles as well as low-cost Bible studies to prepare Christian women for leadership. (beyondordinarywomen.org) Kay spent ten years leading women’s ministries on church staffs, most recently at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas. Kay is the author of From Ordinary Woman to Spiritual Leader: Grow your Influence, a practical guide to help Christian women influence others by applying foundational leadership skills to their lives and ministries, and a number of Bible studies for women, some are available at bible.org and the newer ones are found at beyondordinarywomen.org. Kay earned an M.A.C.E. from Dallas Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Effective Ministries to Women. Kay’s family includes a husband, two grown children, one son-in-law, two hysterical granddaughters and a Goldendoodle.