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Series Theme:  Learning to Pray for the Church

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                     PART THREE: The Difficult Role of Leadership


3.1 Clarifying the Perspective


In the original workshop I omitted this Part because there is the danger that it opens the door for ungodly criticism, yet as I have pondered on the whole subject, it is perhaps folly to omit it, as leaders can be one of the primary motivating forces for change. I simply repeat the same request I made at the beginning of Part 2: Before you move into this Part, please do not read it unless you will first commit yourself to pray for the leaders of our churches.


When I look back, on a bad day, at my own years of leading church, I am overwhelmed by a sense of failure and of inadequacy. The Lord has straightened me out on this by a variety of people who have said how much they have been blessed and changed in the past by my leadership contribution to their lives. Of course, the greater truth is that as every year goes by, (hopefully) we learn more and so, yes, what I did, say fifteen years ago, I look on now with a sense of wonder that I could even have done that, been so naïve, and blundered along as I did. I believe I have learnt more about me, God and the Church in the years since I stepped down from leadership and ‘retired' (It never really happened!) and the rest of life is still part of an ongoing learning process.


Thus wherever we are today in our lives and/or ministry, we must recognize that we are ‘works in progress'. The individual who fails to see this is vulnerable to a bout of pride and a painful bout of discipline, and it is often insecurity that prevents us resting and rejoicing in our ‘inadequate-but-loved-child-of-God' role.



3.2 Most Misunderstood


No one who has never been a church leader will, I believe, ever understand the difficulties of, and pressures upon, church leaders. Here are some of the conundrums, in note form, faced by the leader:


i) Alone or head of a team


- in some church contexts it is expected that, ‘we pay the man to be on his own' and so we consign him to a lonely life, a life over-burdened. He should not be on his own, God did not design him to be on his own, he does not have sufficient resources to be on his own to handle the calls of God on leadership – see below.

- to bring change to this situation needs careful, gradual but consistent and persistent teaching about the body of Christ and what the New Testament says about leaders (see below).


ii) A Man of God or a man of the people


- there is always a difficult balance between being a gracious servant of the people pleasing the people (which often produces a ‘doormat') and the dynamic man of God coming with the vision of God and the ‘now' word, calling for life transformation through genuine discipleship.


iii) Consensus or Favour


- unity hopefully is an expression of the body but how it is achieved is crucial.

- reliance upon a committee for consensus, unless it is directed and led into listening prayer (see above) – and which only acts once it has heard – can lead to human wisdom which will lack the blessing of heaven.

- any team (see (i) above) needs to seek the favour of God (see Gen 39:4,21, Acts 2:47, 7:46) which will include revelation of vision for this part of the body, wisdom as to how act, and grace to win the hearts of God's people to rise up to bring in the kingdom of God.


iv) Parapet or Pulpit


- fear, I believe, is a common ingredient in the lives of many leaders, fears that if they speak out they will lose people and lose their income, or fear that if they speak out they will release a maelstrom of antagonistic hostility from those who want the quiet life that is unchanging, and so we duck behind the parapet and consider ‘the safe approach' (where the anointing of God leaves), instead of catching God's heart and boldly but graciously stand in the pulpit under the anointing of God with the word that releases faith in those who have ears to hear.

- Mark Sayers (in ‘Reappearing Church' but citing Edwin Friedman) speaks at one point about the leader who is, “a highly anxious risk-avoider, someone who is more concerned with good feelings than with progress, someone whose life revolves around the axis of consensus.” I confess I have been there in the past, and have been disciplined by God for it. It is a very common fear. Of course the opposite is the brash and arrogant preacher who tramples on his people, damaging weak or soft hearts along the way. As I said above, it is a difficult balance.


v) Man or Ministry


- I believe that often we focus on the ability or personality of the leader (Paul focused on his character) but when we do that it is easy to focus on the showman and forget the biblical descriptions of a spiritual leader which really form their job description.

- If they are not exhibiting aspects of the three leadership descriptions below, (as well as falling short of the character requirements) one questions whether they are truly leaders (or should maybe seeking God for fresh anointing).

- The ones with spiritual responsibility in the New Testament were interchangeably called a) elders, b) overseers or c) shepherds (pastors). As the names imply they were a) the mature and wise in the congregation of God's people, b) those who guarded and protected the flock, and c) those who provided for the flock, whether it was spiritual food, security or healing. As we say the names are interchangeable.

- Speaking of elders, Paul said they were those who, “direct the affairs of the church” (1 Tim 5:17a) but, interestingly, indicates that not all will necessarily preach and teach (v.17b). It must be their wisdom and maturity that allows them to hold the role, not their ability to speak publicly (though I suspect most would).

- Collectively (in the team) we would expect such people to be Spirit-filled, people of faith and vision, who are there for the flock, bringing wisdom and revelation for them, guarding, protecting and providing for them, i.e. being all out for all the members of the flock. In the absence of this the church will flounder.


vi) Constant Feeders or Equippers


Unnecessary Repetition: A little while ago I went online to watch some friends I know in the States to see what they were teaching their people (in preparation for going out there to speak). One young enthusiastic pastor every Wednesday evening taught for an hour nonstop without visuals as he explained the Bible. I asked him when I saw him face to face, “How much do you think your people take in with that level of input every week? Have you ever thought of teaching them how to take apart the scriptures for themselves so that each week you send them away with a passage to study, so that when they come back next week they share in groups what God showed them, and then have a question and answer time where you provide answers for difficult questions that might arise?”

Some goals: I hope I have said sufficient earlier in this workshop to show that I have absolute confidence in preaching but when it comes to ‘teaching' there are two things to be noted: first are we equipping our people so they get excited with Scripture on their own first of all (giving support afterwards as necessary) and second, do we raise faith levels and equip our people to be doers of the word (see Jesus in Mt 28:20 and Jas 1:22)

- if we believe Scripture and, in this context, 1 Cor 12 -14, as well as Jn 14:12, can we, as leaders, release and empower our people to be the gifted people of God who comprise the body of Christ?

Body Objectives: Francis Chan (in ‘Letters to the Church') commenting on his role as a father, says of his sons, “My job is to train them to stand on their own two feet rather than be dependent on me.” He then continues, “This should be the role of every pastor as well. If we are not careful, we end up with people who have been sitting in churches for years and complaining that they aren't being fed to their liking. This is the same kind of dysfunction as a thirty-year-old complaining about his mom's cooking.”

- the message is clear: train up, equip, release and empower the body of Christ to do the works of Christ. This what church is about: “ His gifts were made that Christians might be properly equipped for their service, that the whole body might be built up until the time comes when, in the unity of the common faith and common knowledge of the Son of God, we arrive at real maturity—that measure of development which is meant by the “fullness of Christ”. (Eph 4:12,13 JBP version)


Faith or Activity: It is easy to fall into the error of substituting what Dallas Willard calls the 'gospel of sin management' which is about human effort, for the real Gospel that puts the transforming presence of Christ himself at the heart of our lives. This is preaching 'behaviour modification' or 'behaviour management' instead of a transformational relationship with Christ where the will is submitted to the empowering of the ever-present Spirit.

I am sure there are, no doubt, other aspects of leadership ministry we could focus upon. I have covered these issues here because I believe they pertain to the life and growth of the church. We will move on to how to pray in the next Part, but suffice it to say, pray for your leaders, pray with understanding of the difficulties they face and pray for God to bless them.




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