On my way to the airport late on a Sunday night I was asked a question by the senior pastor of a church that I had been working with for two days. The question: “What is the role of the senior leader in a local church?”
This young leader has a good sized church with an active leadership and about 100 people attending. He has a well designed and implemented worship service geared very much like an American church service one might see in a larger church in that nation. And, he is wondering what his key role is in the church that he is leading.
The answer: I believe the most important role or function of the senior leader is to cast a vision for the people. This vision must first be of God. The Bible states, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.” The word translated “restraint” could also have been translated as “discouraged.” This ‘vision’ we are to have – cast by the senior leader – is first a vision of God.
We need to see our God for whom He is as revealed to us through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus said, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father” while talking to Philip. And, Jesus also said that His reason for coming was to ‘reveal the Father.’ So, we need to know our God. We need to know and be aware of His plans and His purposes. We need to know His heart for the lost. But, most of all, how powerful and loving He really is.
From this vision of God the local leader can then share the vision for the Kingdom worldwide. The Kingdom is bigger than the Church. The Kingdom has been established through the birth of Jesus, the King. And, according to the prophet Isaiah, the Kingdom will continue to grow and expand constantly. And, the Kingdom is the place where Jesus, the King, reigns. This Kingdom will be established in its fullness when Jesus returns. However, it is here now and a powerful reality.
Build upon this vision of God and His Kingdom is the vision of the Church that Jesus is building. Prophets today have the blueprint for the Church that Jesus is building (Matthew 16:18) and apostles, being master builders, know how to build it. So, a local leader will need to team up with an apostolic-prophetic team to bring the vision of the Church to their people. This is because the ministry of the apostle and prophet is foundational (Ephesians 2:20) and must be first and second in order in the new Church (1 Corinthians 12:28).
The local leader can then talk about and share the vision of the local church that he leads. Every local church has the same basic calling of “seeking and saving the lost” and “making disciples.” However, how this is accomplished and what the life of the local church is going to look like is all part of the vision of the local church. This vision must be built upon a vision of God, the Kingdom, and the Church that Jesus is building.
Then and only then can we share with each individual disciple of the Lord Jesus the vision for their call. Then and only then can we really focus on what the disciples of Jesus are called to do within the vision of the local church that they belong to and are a vital and active part of. Their call and vision for their life must fit within the vision of the local church where God has planted them. And, their ministry is there to help the local church complete the work it has been called to accomplish, not the other way around.
The issue is, as I explained to the leader on the way to the airport, that most churches and believers start with the vision for their own roll and call or ministry. It must never start there – it must always start with the vision of God and who He is. That is what the Bible states: “Where there is no prophetic vision (of God) the people cast off restraint.” It is foundational to everything else.