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This blog post is Part 2 of a series entitled, "(re)born to Lead" by Pastor Jeffrey Dean Smith of Donelson First in Nashville, TN. 

Message Date: October 9, 2022

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Last week I shared that you and I have within us the ability to lead like Jesus - - to be as great a leader as Jesus and to actually do even greater things. As we saw last week in scripture, these were the words of Jesus Himself in John 14:  

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14  

We examined these truths: 

I believe the Bible to be fully true.

I believe everything Jesus said is true.

I believe Jesus is the greatest leader to have ever walked the planet.

I believe Jesus said I can do everything that he did and… I believe Jesus said I can do even greater things than he did!

Therefore…   I must also believe that I have within me the ability to be the greatest leader among leaders who has ever walked this planet.  

Do you believe this about yourself? As you thought through this reality this week, have you struggled with these truths? Well, it’s important to be clear on what Jesus did and did not say in John 14!   

Jesus did not say: I can be greater than Him. I cannot.   

Jesus did say: I can do greater things than He did. I can.  

However, there is a very important condition in what Jesus said! I can only do greater things than He did if I make this one critical move!  

Look at the passage again:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14

The condition to doing greater things than Jesus did requires I: “...believe!”

We understand from the words of Jesus that:

My ability to be the greatest leader among leaders who have ever walked this planet requires that I believe in Jesus by being (re)born as a follower of Jesus.

Leadership is such an important attribute for the Christ-follower. But the title of this series leaves no room for confusion:

True leadership is contingent upon my salvation.  

So, I want us to spend adequate time discussing salvation that comes from being (re)born. We are going to do this for the next few weeks!  

As I began to consider the process of being (re)born, I realized CANNOT get to the “great leader” aspect of this series without FIRST discussing the (re)born step! To do this well, it is imperative we first discuss what separates being (re)born as a Christian from all other religions. One cannot fully decide to be (re)born without fully understanding the meaning behind the message and life commitment of Christianity.  

Therefore, I want to discuss the landscape of religion in our world as we compare worldly religions to the one true religion of Christianity.  

There are countless messages blurring the lines between holy and unholy living.  

The appeal of worldly religions makes complete sense when you give consideration to the overarching message in mainstream culture that simply says, “anything goes!”  

Think about it: You can hardly watch TV today, check in on your socials, or take in your favorite Saturday game-of-the-day without being the recipient of a message that is counter-Christianity.  

It seems there is no end to the entertainment industry pushing the boundaries further every year. Television shows glamorize dirty jokes, partial nudity, homosexual messages, anti-Christian sentiment, and disrespect for life, parents, committed relationships, marriage, and God. Social media convinces our young girls that their looks are their only ticket to security. Young boys are told that if they drink the right beer, own expensive cars, and wear the right body spray, women will fall all over them. The end result is that many in the world pretty much accept anything as permissible, especially when it comes to morality and spirituality. And... Not only do many in the world accept a lifestyle of unholiness... they do so with great eagerness and zeal.    

The question with which I have wrestled all week is, “Why?” 

Why do so many find a lifestyle, and specifically, religions supporting such a lifestyle other than Christianity so appealing?   The answer mirrors this message in culture:  

No strings. No commitment. No conviction. Live as I please. Worship as I please. Serve as I please. Hit repeat.  

To properly understand the weight of this reality, I want to take some time today to examine the major religions of the world. We’ve studied various religions during my time here as pastor @ DF. I want to walk in greater detail through some of these more prominent worldly religions.   

Any idea how many known religions there are in the world today? 4300  

I first want to show you a few bizarre new world religions, and then I want to have an even-deeper examination of the world’s most popular religions today: Get ready for this! These are actual religions...

Prince Philip Religion (PPR)

This religion worships the spirit of the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth’s husband who passed in April of 2021. Followers of this religion believe that no one really dies, instead, they reincarnate and move about the world freely.  

Raelism Religion

This religion states that humans were created from alien DNA 25,000 years ago and that the new Jerusalem city should arrive in the year 2025. They too believe that one can live guilt-free from any decision made while on earth as long as the decision is one that brings satisfaction and pleasure along one’s life journey.  

Aghori Religion

This is a Hindu cult religion known for its bizarre rituals, which include attaining the highest of enlightenment by eating the decaying flesh of a human. In eating this flesh, friends and family members help prevent the deceased from being tormented in the afterlife.  


This is a very popular religious movement followed by thousands of Star Wars fans all over the world. Jediism incorporates the fictional teachings of the Jedi. They believe that “the force” is a very real power in the universe that allows one to make his or her own choices consequence-free. Right now, Jediism is actually the seventh largest religion in the UK.  

The Church of Euthanasia

Is considered to be one of the world’s only anti-human religions. The church promotes a solution of over population by a massive voluntary population reduction. The famous slogan of the church “Save the planet, kill yourself!” is often seen at various public events around the world. Followers believe that people, not a higher power, ultimately control one's destiny.   Notice one commonality among these religions? Freedom! Freedom to choose. Freedom to live. Freedom to do what desires. Freedom to die. And freedom to control how one’s soul spends eternity!  

The problem with such freedom is that it ultimately comes with an eternal loss of freedom.  

In Romans 12:2, Paul gave this critically important warning to the Church: Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will. Romans 12:2

World (Greek) = age; time period  

You know, one of the reoccurring complaints people make about God’s Word is that it has “aged” or “timed out!”  

Sure, in the year 2022 we have a unique expression of human struggle with sin today that is different than it was at the time of Paul’s writing. But the underlying problem still exists today:

It seems with each new generation there is a promise of the new and improved that will help people “escape” life’s pains and struggles. Since man’s first sin, people have always run and hidden from their personal demons rather than addressing them.

People have always wrestled with social issues, identity, self-worth, acceptance, the search for approval and love, and more. Many mask, hide or cope with their sin by turning to the “pattern of this world” or the accepted behaviors of this world and to insanely bizarre religions that require no-accountability and no-consequence to one’s life.  

Additionally, many new religions of today, like every other false message that is man-made, only offer a momentary “buzz” or temporary fix. This is exactly what Paul is addressing in Romans 12 when he says, “Do not conform to these patterns.” – What he is saying is, “Do not give into the quick fixes offered in the ‘age or the time period.’” They may offer a short-time freedom, but they always lead to eternal darkness. The world is offering smoke and lights. Christianity is offering authenticity.  

To those here today who are followers of Jesus Christ, I remind you:  

As a leader, I must be both passionate and prepared to lead people away from the smoke and lights and offer them true life change.  

As a whole, our world is extremely religious. However, our world is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. 

As the Church, we have to continue being creative, strategic, and innovative at reaching our world with the message, “Jesus saves!”  

If we do not strive to become more knowledgeable of the religious beliefs + practices of the world, we become ineffective in leading our world away from the emptiness of any religion at odds with Christianity.  

Look at these 2 warnings of empty & deceitful religious teachers and teachings:

Avoid godless chatter because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. 2 Timothy 2:16-17a  

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Peter 2:1  

So...let’s take a quick look at 7 major religions of the world. In doing so, it is my belief that we will truly see Christianity as the only viable religion worth pursuing:    

7 Major Religions of the World:  

Today, we will look at 6 of the world’s most popular religions!    

7. Baha’i  (baHI-E)

Baha'i = follower of Baha referring to the founder of the religion. Believe in the oneness of humanity and devote themselves to the abolition of any worldly prejudices. The major teaching of this religion is concerned with social ethics.

Worldwide population: 7M Main belief:

Believe there is only one real religion, which is the religion of God. The different faiths we see in the world are different approaches to this religion. Believe that all world religions are different conceptions of and reactions to the same divine reality.  

Essentially, a Baha’i follower believes all religions lead one to eternity with God in heaven.  

6. Judaism

Judaism = from the name of the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve ancient tribes of Israel.

So, literally, it is the religion of those who come from the tribe of Judah, who are called the Jews. However, being Jewish refers to an ethnic identity as well as a faith, and nowadays there are many Jews who do not practice the Jewish faith, even though they are happy to be known as Jews ethnically and culturally.  

Worldwide population: 15M  

Main belief: Judaism proclaims the one true God. However, with the exception of Messianic Jews who have been (re)born through the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, Jews do not believe that Jesus is God’s Son. They do not believe He was the Christ who came to earth, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of humanity, rose from the dead three days later, and offers salvation and eternity in heaven to anyone who believes in Him and chooses to receive Him a Savior and Lord.   

Those practicing this faith believe the Son of God is yet to come. What they do not realize is that He did in fact come, they just missed Him.

5. Hinduism

Dharma = the way Hindus claim there are many gods, but Brahman is the ultimate power underlying the universe.

Worldwide population: 900M  

Main belief: A person needs only to rediscover his/her inner god in order to reach a state of nirvana (eternal bliss.)        

4. Buddhism

Buddhism = enlightened one Buddhism says there is no god.

Buddhism is based on the teachings of the person called the Buddha. People outside of Buddhism assume that Buddhists worship Buddha. However, Buddha never claimed to be god. Instead, a Buddhist strives to attain spiritual freedom. In this religion, there is no “one” relationship w/a god.  

Worldwide population: 360M

Main belief: Strive to attain spiritual freedom. When you die, you return to being at one with the universe, much like a drop of water blending back into the ocean. 

 3. Islam (Muslim)

Islam = submission Muslim = one who submits to God

Worldwide population: 1.3B  

Though mostly associated with the Middle East, the largest Muslim populations are in Asia. Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India too have sizable Muslim populations. Islam is based primarily on the writings of Mohammad, as recorded in the Qur'an. Muslims do believe in one god. However, the relationship isn’t one that is intimate. Muslims live in fear of their god, thus their willingness to give up their lives in suicide missions & the likes.  

Main belief: Believe in one supreme god: Allah. However, Muslims do not recognize the human plight of original sin.

According to Islam, God is not considered a loving “father,” and Allah has no son.  

2. Irreligion

Irreligion = a rejection of all religions

This is the fastest-growing religion.  

Irreligion is the religion of “no religion.” The term irreligion refers to a spectrum of non-religious belief systems, such as secular humanism, agnosticism, and atheism. You may have heard of these words before. But do you know the difference:

secular humanism = the belief that humanity is capable of morality and self-fulfillment without any belief in God.  

agnosticism = the belief that the existence of God, the divine, or the supernatural is unknown. An agnostic is someone who doesn't believe it's possible to know for sure that a god exists.  

atheism = disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or any gods.  

Interestingly, irreligion does not necessarily coincide with a rejection of the church. Some countries that have high irreligion rates, like Sweden and Albania (over 50 percent for both countries) also show a high percentage of the population affirming that they attend a church.  

Worldwide population: 2B

The conclusion is obvious: Sadly, for many, belief in God is not necessary to obtain or claim membership in the organized Church.  

This is exactly what Jesus saw during His time on planet earth. The Pharisees were extremely religious in their beliefs. However, they claimed no allegiance to Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of the world. Jesus spoke these powerful words then. Such damning words are too for our world today:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. Matthew 23:15

Why do we see so many people find irreligion attractive?

1. Irreligion is often a reaction against what some perceive as an oppressive nature of religion that attempts to appease God.

2. Simply: It’s easier not to believe than to believe and fail. So many people are turning to irreligion, or no religion at all, because it’s easier not to believe than to strive to believe, fall short, and live in guilt.  

Church, this is exactly why this series (re)born to Lead is so important for us. You may be thinking, “Well, I’m already a Christian. so I don’t need this series!” Don’t be fooled!

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14  

As a Christian, our world needs ME to be the leader I am (re)born to be so that I can help the world see:

Perfection is not the end goal with Jesus. Life surrender and trusting Jesus in the midst of my failures is the end goal.   Realizing I can never be perfect should never be an excuse to stop pursuing perfection.  

My goal as a Christ-follower should be about the daily pursuit of total surrender! As an imperfect Christian, I can’t get there. I know this. But the (re)born life is less about getting there and more about striving to never be satisfied with anything less than getting there.       


Jeffrey Dean Smith is a husband, father to Bailey & Brynnan, author, and the Senior Pastor at Donelson First in Nashville, TN. If you are in Music City, meet Jeffrey and enjoy iced tea on the front lawn each Sunday at 10:30a.