Jesus didn’t recruit leaders for His ministry. He didn’t go to the local synagogue and place a notice on the bulletin board, announcing that He was taking resumes and setting up interviews for potential leaders. Jesus wasn’t looking for leaders at all. Jesus was looking for followers. Leonard Sweet, I Am a Follower.
There’s a move afoot to re-define the American church.
After over five-hundred years of existence, assuming you take 1492 (Columbus’ arrival in the new world) as the beginning point of our Christian heritage on this continent called North America, the Church of Jesus Christ has survived its’ share of change. And just as our cultural traditions continue to evolve, so the Church has been changing as well. Some would say that we’ve seen nothing yet when it comes to the radical shift needed to keep the institutional church culturally relevant to our ever-changing society. Others would suggest that while change is all around us, the church needs to hold firm to the securities anchored in the past, protecting traditions and belief systems that to many now seem ancient and outdated.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, without a doubt, change is here to stay. And while Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Rock of all Ages, will never change, we must remember that church history clearly shows us that His church, from Day One, has always been caught up in times of turbulence and great change. And apparently, from God’s perspective, He’s quite certain that nothing here on earth will arise to eradicate or snuff out His glorious Bride. Nor can we, the leadership inside His church, screw it up so much that Divine Providence is unable to straighten it out. Indeed, His Church is forever, and despite those who might believe we only will survive another decade or so, my bet is on the side of God. If history is any indicator of the future, God seems quite capable, thank you, in keeping this thing called the Church going for 2,000 years now. And I’m guessing that He knows full-well how to keep life pumping through our veins until such time that Jesus returns for His end-time wrap-up.
As one pastor I know states it this way, “I’ve read the end of the book. And Christ wins! And so do we!”
And while I agree with that theology, my inward fear is that the Church across North America must look a lot different on that final day in order to make it to God’s finish line with our Master! As a pastor in the Heartland of America for over thirty years now, my gut tells me that reformation is not a thing of the past, but a work of God He desires to bring to every generation of believers. And if I know my Savior well enough, I’m guessing Jesus stands at the ready to radically transform and reform His Church today, if only a few of us might start listening and responding to His call. Are we listening? Are we really listening? Are we ready to respond to what we hear?
Ready or not. Radical reformation and transformation is upon us. The Church in America, while not broken, is limping badly and needs more than a simple band-aid here or there to get the patient back into action. My hope here is to simply address what I see as a major flaw in the way we American pastors and leaders approach our work assignments for Jesus.
Over the last 50 years, the Americanized Church seems enamored with developing successful ‘leadership’ in our churches. The line of thought is this. If the church is to be successful in our mission to bring the Gospel to a lost and dying world, we must have top-quality ‘leaders’ who are able to ‘lead’ the cause of Christ. ‘How-to’ books and seminars abound for pastors who desire to become vibrant leaders themselves while training up an army of leaders who can build and lead a vibrant church. A church which can stand strong on its own two feet. A church that will be a driving force in our darkened society, leading lost sinners into lives as saved saints. A church that’s new and improved. A church that knows clearly its mission, and leads our nation back to God. Strong, proud, and free. My former co-worker in Promise Keepers, Glenn Wagner, states in his excellent book, Escape from Church Inc., that the church has, unfortunately, taken most of our cues on ‘leadership’ from the corporate world of America, replicating the successful leadership formulas that have worked well in our consumer-driven society.
As I see it, my friends, something needs to change. Radical change in the way we define successful Christian leadership.
I don’t write as a self-proclaimed expert in theology, a master of historical languages, or even as a biblical scholar. I write simply as a pastor of thirty-plus years who recently has discovered that I’ve been spending much of my time over the years doing my job in pastoral ministry by using a set of faulty assumptions and believing a bunch of questionable truths.
Have I been a heretic? No. But have I been misled and have I misled others? Yes. So, it’s time to set the record straight and set a course of correction. A course that I believe has much stronger biblical evidence behind it than I’ve ever believed before. A correction that I believe will bring me and others who are open to reforming their well-established approach to Christian leadership, a breath of fresh air and new anointing from the Holy Spirit.
So here we go, folks. Fasten your seat belts. This blog series on leadership might seem just a bit bumpy for those of you who don’t like change or radical reformation! But here we go.
My prayer: Father God, You’ve always appointed men and women into leadership roles, but quite honestly, I’m not convinced that the way we’re doing ‘leadership’ in Americanized church is exactly how You might want it to be. Jesus, I’m ready to ask the question; ‘What kind of leaders are You asking men and women to be today?’ Point me in the right direction, Master. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Am I ready to dig a bit deeper into these hard questions of how we define ‘successful’ leadership in today’s church environment? Am I willing to let go of some of my cultural applications to these questions and allow God’s Word and the Holy Spirit speak as I take time to ponder and listen?
So, what is God speaking to you today as we ask the question, To Lead Or Not To Lead?
As I see it, something needs to change in the way we define ‘successful’ Christian leadership. And the question today should not be, ‘Do we need leadership?’ but rather, ‘What kind of leaders is God asking men and women to be? Over a four-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at this question. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our To Lead Or Not To Lead? home page for ease of use. ENJOY!