For the past few weeks we have looked at what the Church can do to start to have an influence on a society that is being torn apart by the constant invasion of secular evil. This week we will start to take a look at what the church can to to become more involved in this invasion battle. The recovery of American society will depend less upon the improvement of churches and more upon the commitment of individual followers of Christ to being the Church. However, America’s local churches can play a significant role in empowering and equipping Christians to be the Church. In the same way that schools represent a valuable support system involved in the education of our children, so can local churches provide the kind of encouragement, relationships, experiences, resources, and fortitude that will better enable followers of Christ to imitate the mind, heart, and actions of their master. For churches to be more effective facilitators of kingdom living, providing better leadership as well as refining the emphasis of ministry activity would go a long way toward propelling the Church forward.
We will start with a look at leadership. Most people are not habitual leaders, i.e. individuals who have been called and gifted by God primarily to provide leadership in most of the situations in which they find themselves. However, everyone is in multiple environments every day in which they are the recipient of leadership and in which their own productivity and influence is dependent upon the quality of the leadership they receive. The local church environment is no different. You may not be a habitual leader, yet when you participate in the life of a local church, your personal spiritual development and your ministry to others is directly affected by the quality of the leadership provided by the church. In other words, you are a captive consumer of church leadership. As such, we have an extensive history as followers who have been affected by leaders…and therefore, we are quite skilled at discerning a good leader from a well-intentioned but ineffective one. We are also probably well aware that many of our churches are not well led and that the absence of effective guidance has dampened the positive impact of churches on their communities…and governments. Nearly everyday we read/hear of government policies being impacted by decisions that can only make us wonder what’s going on? Man’s laws are being influenced by atheist action committees, by LGBTQ action committees, by women’s ‘constitutional rights’ action committees, by ‘god-hater’ action committees, etc. but the silence of the church is deafening. Unfortunately these action committees are winning battles and Christians are being pushed further and further into a category of insignificance. While we have a tendency to blame various entities for this tragedy…such as ineffective training and inappropriate credentialing of future church leaders by seminaries or the poor hiring choices by search committees or elders boards…a significant share of the blame must be placed upon us, the congregants, for accepting poor leadership in our churches. If things are going to change quickly…and they must, if the nation, the ‘ship of state’, is going to pull off the direly needed U-turn out of ‘shoal waters’…then we must speak up for what our communities of faith need in order to move forward, and we must refuse to settle for anything less. We must refuse to fear God’s Word offending someone.
In the years to come, we must distinguish between teachers and leaders and refuse to give Biblically sound teachers who are not also gifted leaders the responsibility of leading a congregation. [A decade’s worth of research by the Barna Group on this issue has concluded that very few clergy are called and gifted as both leaders and teachers. Less than one out of every four senior pastors of Protestant churches are called and gifted as leaders; roughly six out of ten Protestant senior pastors are called and gifted as teachers. Substantially fewer than one out of every ten senior pastors possess the call and gift to carry out both the teaching and leading duties.] We need teachers who can help us understand what the Scriptures are calling us to be and how to become such people, but we must free those teachers from the bondage of trying to lead a congregation when God Himself has neither called nor gifted them to do so.
And by the way, the most effective leaders in many of our churches are probably congregants, not clergy. Case studies of effective churches often reveal that those ministries build the structure around the gifted individuals who are available to move people forward, rather than seeking gifted individuals to slot into a predetermined structure. In the years ahead we must insist that those who lead us hold fast to a clear vision from God of what the congregation is called to do and to be. We cannot afford to pursue the vision of the pastor or other designated leader. The only vision that matters is God’s. It is God’s will that is going to be done, and thus we need His vision for how to get on board with where He wants to take a particular group of believers. Only those leaders who have that God-given vision firmly implanted in their mind and heart and who are dedicated to pursuing it deserve congregational support.
The greatest church leaders are those who recognize that the most important spiritual leadership of all must be delivered within our families and who do whatever is necessary to empower parents to get that job done. Fathers and mothers as a team are obligated to raise their children in ways that usher them into God’s presence and normalize His ways. This is not a job that can be delegated to religious professionals, the religious community, or to the government. The most important ministry each parent will ever have is that to his or her offspring. Imagine the impact of every Christian home committing to that responsibility and fulfilling their Biblical calling as parents. When that happens, American society will become a vastly different place than it is today. The bottom line is for churches to put less emphasis on programs, staff, and buildings in favor of equipping saints for ministry and for cultural impact. The apostle Paul made this point when he wrote that the job of pastors and teachers is simple: “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the Church, the body of Christ.” [Eph. 4:12]. To me it would only seem logical that it is a church’s responsibility to take a stand when government tries to stand in the way or negate any effort to ‘equip God’s people’. This is where the church must be aware of what is going on in the political world, not in an effort to control the government but to make sure the government is not trying to control the church…as the Constitution provides for.
Next week we will take a look at ministry emphasis and measurement. Are we trying to facilitate society with Godly transformation or engage in institutional advancement?
– Bob Munsey