Pope Francis: The True Meaning of his Name

St. Francis of Assisi (November 26, 1182 – October 3, 1226), the man after whom the current pope is named left an indelible print in the sand of time because of his penitential or repentant lifestyle. On March 13, 2013 Cardinal Gorge Mario Borgoglio of Argentina was elected as pope, yet he took the name Francis. Therefore, he is known as Pope Francis 1.

“Habemus Papam” – Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., has been elected Pope Francis I (Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales))

You might be wondering, “What is in a name?” Usually, newborn babies are given the name of another person. That is, some babies are named after their aunts, uncles, or grandparents. For example, my parents named me after my grandfather, Abdulai Tommy Sowa. Recently, I did a legal name change. I changed my first and middle names to Charles and Timothy (CT). I named myself Charles for Charles Spurgeon – “Victorian England’s best known Baptist minister”, and Timothy – The Bishop of the 1st century churches of Ephesus in Asia Minor. Remember, Martin Luther King, Jr., the African American clergyman and Civil Rights leader was named after Martin Luther the Protestant German Reformer.

As an itinerary evangelist, the overarching theme at the core of St. Francis’ preaching was God’s unfathomable love for humankind. He was not judgmental in his preaching at all. He embraced the life of Gospel poverty, and he had no feelings of overwhelming anxiety about it. Francis’ exemplary lifestyle serves as a flashlight on the dozing conscience of the 21st century church. Surely, there will always be sick people in our communities, and they need to be cared for. The poor and helpless also deserve our care. Lepers, for example, deserve to be cared for not with the attitude that we are doing them favor, but perceiving such ministry as a “source of spiritual and physical consolation….”

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Francis of Assisi observes that, since we are absolved, there is more room for growth in the image of Christ. Incarnation is one of the dominant themes of the penitent Franciscan stripe. Lessons on the penitential stream teach Christians today (especially those that have swallowed the prosperity Gospel hook-line-and-sinker) to embrace simplicity of life-style. It does not necessarily mean that each and every one of us should do property denunciation and become friars. At the Third Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization, it was observed that one of the six major challenges facing the church is, “Calling the church back to humility, integrity and simplicity.”

We can make the conscious decision to overcome materialism, refuse to live exploitative lives, and practice generosity. When people become engulfed by the love of money, they employ all kinds of Machiavellian or manipulative practices in order to amass the mundane things of this life. Instead of consuming the best and leaving the poor to glean on our crumbs we should lavishly share our best with them.

Indeed, the lines between the penitential life and the compassionate life intersect. Surely, God is calling the whole body of Christ to be an “includer” of those who feel left out, and to be a voice for the voiceless. Both the rich and the poor reflect the glorious image of God. Therefore, the latter must be cherished and honored as much as the former is. Fundamentally, we are all the same. We are all equally important regardless of social status or physical condition. Neither the elite nor the common should be ignored. The church needs to do more in terms of ministering to people who are grappling with untreatable illnesses. HIV/AIDS patients, for example, should be treated with dignity.

Are we to cast judgment on those who are falling through the cracks due to their indiscretion and poor decisions? Certainly no. Being judgmental can hurt the feelings of people. Why should we (preachers) condemn people if we don’t have to? Our authority is not to preach judgmental sermons; our authority is to preach the redeeming love of Christ!

If Saint Francis of Assisi left a legacy of penitence, then it follows that Pope Francis’ leadership of the RC Church must epitomize repentance. There must be a clarion call to repentance that reverberates across the globe! Integrity issues, habitual temptations and wrongdoings among the leaders of the church must be dealt with. Each and every one of us must realize our sins and be willing to change our ways.

Since he has the awesome responsibility of leading the 1.1 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, I pray that Pope Francis will live out the true meaning of his name.

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Billy Graham: Relationship With God, Roles and Results

English: Evangelist Billy Graham, at a Crusade...

English: Evangelist Billy Graham, at a Crusade in Cleveland Ohio, on June 11, 1994. This was the first time the Billy Graham Crusade had tried a Youth Night, and there were about 85,000 that attended the concert, at Cleveland Stadium, on the shores of Lake Erie. Photo Paul M. Walsh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this article, I would do a brief description of the leadership actions of Billy Graham with reference to his relationship with God, roles, responsibilities and the results of his ministry.

Conversion and relationship with God

Billy Graham explains in his autobiography, Just as I Am, that sometime around his sixteenth birthday, after the preaching of Dr. Ham he became “deeply convicted about (his) sinfulness and rebellion.” In response to Dr. Ham’s altar call, Billy Graham went to the front. He writes that a family friend called J.D. Prevatt helped him understand what he needed to do to become a genuine Christian. He writes that after his salvation he continued in his salesmanship job alongside evangelism sandwiched with prayer. His relationship with God was the hub around which his life and ministry evolved.

Leadership and Roles

He reveals that on a certain night in 1983 he had his purpose and objective in life set – being a preacher of the Gospel, even though he lacked specificity about how and when!
After his resignation from the position of president at Northwestern College, he started ‘full-time’ evangelism. He draws the attention of readers to the establishment of a few principles of action that became the pattern throughout his ministry. This resolution was made in lieu of prayer, financial accountability, morality, cooperation with local churches, and generally carrying out ministry activities with integrity. In consequence of that resolution, Billy Graham made up his mind not to act himself familiar with the opposite sex, such as meeting or eating alone with a woman other than his wife.

Marshall Shelley recently published Ten Leadership Secrets From Billy Graham at the website of the Christianity Today Magazine (http: // http://www.christianitytoday.com). That article is replete with time-tested leadership principles.
The principles highlighted include,

1. Leadership is Forged in a Furnace
2. The Spirit of Team building Empowers and Energizes
3. Never Underestimate a “Small Temptation.”
4. Laser is on the Mission
5. Embrace the Challenge of Criticism
6. Recognize Fear as a Catalyst for Courage
7. Turn unthinkable Failure into Gold
8. Emphasize the Common Ground
9. Inspire other Leaders
10. Leverage weakness

In Robert E. Coleman’s book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Billy Graham writes the foreword and reminds the readership about “The Priority to reach out in love to a confused and dying world with the good news of God’s forgiveness and peace and hope through Jesus Christ.”
Speaking to a one-time leader of Russia, Mr. Ponomarev, Billy Graham in an attempt to bring this leader to a relationship with God, witnessed saying, “ I have peace with God in my heart. If I die, I know I’m going to Heaven. God has given me the ability to love, to be more tolerant, to be more understanding, and to work toward peace in our world.”

Monumental impact

It is reported that 3.2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. As of 2008, Graham’s estimated lifetime audience including radio and television broadcasts topped 2.2 billion. He operates a variety of media and publishing outlets.

Billy Graham has been referred to as a spiritual ambassador to political leaders. He is a leader who believes in social justice; during the civil rights movement, he began to support integrated seating for his revivals and crusades. In 1957 he invited Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to preach jointly at a huge revival in New York City.
Dr. Graham has appeared on Gallup’s list of most admired men and women 55 times, more than any other individual in the world.

Acknowledging the enormity of the results of his ministry on one hand, and the need to give God all the glory by the same token; Evangelist Billy Graham sums it up in the preface of his autobiography by succinctly expressing, “ Most of all if anything has been accomplished through my life, it has been solely God’s doing, not mine, and He-not I-must get the credit.”