|Questions for Church Leaders|
Leadership is a huge privilege. Leadership is also a big responsibility. A good leader must think about those who follow, and how our actions impact those who follow behind us. Leading the church is an even bigger privilege and responsibility! Paul talks about the qualifications of an overseer, or pastor/elder, in 1 Timothy 3:1-5:
"Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)"
There are many people who naturally have leadership traits, but God has called a few of us to be disciples (followers) that help shape and lead the lives of other disciples (followers) towards Himself. Sounds like a simple task, right? Well, on paper it should be, but when imperfect people get involved (that'd be all of us), it does not always work out so smoothly.
I have now been in church ministry for about 18 years. I do not say that to brag at all... In fact, it's a miracle of God's making that I have survived that long! In that time, I have seen many different examples of leadership from many church leaders. ALL of them were examples of leadership, but not all were GOOD examples of Godly leadership.
Let me explain. In leadership, we are leading one of two ways... We are either 1) Following the Spirit of the Lord, or 2) Following the direction of our own heart. Hopefully, we are walking with the Lord closely enough that our own desires are in step with those of God. To put it more simply, we are either leading people towards the throne of God, or leading them away from it.
In preparing for a teaching series on David, I was reading and studying the life of his predecessor as king of Israel, King Saul. Like many leaders of God's people, Saul started out in the right way. Samuel describes Saul in this way, as he addressed the nation of Israel, "Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people." (1 Sam. 10:24). Saul was a fine human specimen, had humble enough beginnings. He sought the face of the Lord and Godly advisors, and gave God the credit for the amazing victories granted in battle, etc.
However, at some point during Saul's forty-two year reign as king, he began to change. He began to rely on his own thoughts and experience rather than seeking God's guidance. In his arrogance, Saul even offers a burnt sacrifice, which was only to be offered by the priests. Samuel's response to Saul should be haunting to each of us in ministry leadership positions:
“You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”
We have to remember that successful leadership of God's people is only possible through the express direction of the Lord. It does not matter how long we have served in ministry, the urgency of the leadership of Christ should be what we seek. We should not settle for our own delusions of grandeur in ministry. Large buildings, hip services, video game stations, mission trips, even the term "pastor" are all meaningless if God is not the center of it all.
I stated earlier that I had experienced church leadership from both ends of the spectrum. I have seen leaders struggling to maintain their own vision of what a church should be... while watching their church crumble around them. I have also seen leadership that is so passionate about listening to the direction of the Lord, that God began to move in ways that none of us had ever imagined.
The real question that we have to ask ourselves is this... "Is my ministry focused on person of Jesus, or is it focused on the person of me? I do not know about you, but I do not want to go the way of Saul. King David (who succeeded Saul) was not perfect, but God did amazing things to bless Israel because of the attitude of his heart towards the Lord.