Over the last three decades, there has been a seismic shift across the landscape of the church. The advent of church-growth theory, coupled with exponential advances in technology, has created a hyper-pursuit for leadership muscle that has never been seen before. Seminars and conferences have become trendy leadership fitness centers. Titans of business and mega-church pastors serve as leadership fitness trainers, while books and periodicals deliver leadership steroids and growth hormones. The goal of such an industry? To create better leaders, stronger leaders, to make and multiply leaders. Leonard Sweet, I Am a Follower.
Recently, I was invited by a long-time pastoral friend to come to his church and fill in for him at an evening session of his church’s leadership development class. My friend had a family conflict that particular evening and it was a true honor to get his phone call asking me to drive over to his community and fill in for him at this one session on leadership. He was using a very familiar curriculum that a lot of us Vineyard pastors have used over the years in successfully training and equipping lay people for leadership roles in our churches. I was going to be filling in on week two of his three-week class, so I wanted to be certain that I was being consistent with everything my friend had said the week before and pave the way for his final session the week after my talk. I asked him to email me a set of the notes he wanted me to cover, and as he was getting ready to end our call, I heard the words, “Marty, now I want you to feel free to edit or add anything to the class that the Lord gives you to talk about.”
On one hand, I was honored that my friend trusted me enough to add that little tag onto our conversation. I readily trust that my friend and I have known each other long enough that either one of us would always add such a comment without thinking about it. Yet after hearing his words, I took a big gulp later in the day as I began looking at the notes that my friend had emailed me.
The subject for the evening?
Maturity and Qualifications for Leadership.
Now don’t get me wrong. Everything in the five pages of notes was material I was fully aware of and had taught many times in my own church when discussing leadership issues such as this. There were no controversial statements in the notes. Nothing of any nature that would be inconsistent with the scriptures. Nothing at all that would be offensive in any way, shape or form to any typical American pastor who wanted to set up a successful leadership training program in his or her church.
But why then, did my heart sink when I looked through the material that my friend sent to me? Why did I get a sick feeling in my stomach as I read through these very familiar teaching points that are so commonly associated with the theme of maturity and qualifications for leadership? Why were red flags waving and loud bells going off inside my head as I scanned the pages of these notes? Was I going crazy? I’d taught this material dozens of times before to many men and women who were looking to step up into leadership roles in my church. Why now am I sensing that I just can’t go in front of the twenty or so leaders-in-training at my friend’s church and teach this material?
Quite honestly, I struggled for several days before calling my friend once again, asking him if it were truly OK with him if I took generous liberty with the notes he had sent me. I was so appreciative of his generous spirit and attitude of trust he gave me that day. He said once again, “Marty, please rest assured that I believe God has given you something to share with our people, and I’m sure whatever you say will be good.”
Well, with that settled in mind and heart, let me now enfold for you what material I did end up sharing that evening. We’ll start on that next time!
My prayer: Jesus, there were numerous times when You obviously didn’t stick to the script handed you by the religious leaders of Your day. As I read Your life-story, there were times when it was more important for You to speak from Your heart than it was to stay with the accepted program. Holy Spirit, give me wisdom on when I need to do as Jesus did, and adjust the plan to stay on track with You. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How can I honor those godly men and women around me, following the rich traditions that have served the Church well, while also being fully aware that there might be times when Jesus just might be asking me to step outside the lines, risking my reputation in order to honor all I sense the Spirit asking me to do or say?
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!