Leadership in the Christian Church is difficult. Often more difficult than leadership in the business or political world because you are dealing with people who attend because they want to and volunteer to work with you because they choose to – not because they are being paid to do so. As well, leaders in the Church are tugged at from all sides by people who want their perspective affirmed, or their agenda adopted or their beliefs validated. Leaders at all levels are temped to please people rather than cast vision, tempted to become a yes-person rather than making the hard call. Most of all, we are tempted to settle, time and again, for smaller visions rather than the big, transforming vision of God’s Kingdom invading our lives.
Too often, as a leader, I have made the mistake of thinking that my own success was predicated on meeting people’s needs. I have written teachings based on what I thought people would like. I’ve made decisions to appease. I’ve caved in to criticism. But too often, while attracting the numbers, a crowd, I have created chaos. This changed a number of years ago when I realized that these people will never be satisfied with what Jesus wants and will leave as soon as you ask for a serious commitment that will be personally costly to those who allow the Kingdom to truly invade life and grasp the personal involvement and sacrifice needed to see the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) fulfilled. As soon as it is no longer about them – you will see them leave and go find a church that will cater to them – their whims and their needs.
I have recently noted, even deeply discovered, that the “crowd” in the Gospels, was a negative thing, not a positive thing. The crowd was generally whiny and disruptive to Jesus. They were seeking to have their needs met, their agenda adopted, their thoughts and lifestyle affirmed. All the while Jesus was working to introduce the Kingdom and, what today we would call a Christian worldview – a prophetic Kingdom perspective.
We have created a pastoral model of the church. This is not the Church that Jesus is building. The original plan for God’s people was that they would all be priests and prophets. We are to be part of the “priesthood of all believers” reaching the lost and prophetic (as indicated by Peter’s reference to Joel’s prophetic word… and the addition to that quote from Joel of an extra reference to the prophetic (see Acts 2 and compare it to Joel 2). So, the “pastors” who lead the church today are seldom allowed to be the leaders God called them to be. Seldom are they “prophetic” – casting the vision of the real Church that Jesus is building. So, we gather a crowd or have a circus (a continuing rotation of guest speakers and specials) but we are not building the Church.
To help with building the Church that Jesus is building we need to speak out with vision and with courage and boldness. We need to call God’s people to truly live as “new creatures in Christ.” We need to challenge those who say they are disciples of Jesus to do as He commanded: “Take up your cross daily and follow Me.” We need to no longer pamper those who say they believe but live like they don’t. It is time to cast the vision of the Kingdom which is bigger than the local church. It is time to focus on the Kingdom (which means focusing on the lost) and be a part of seeing it constantly expand and absorb more and more territory today and every day. Jesus told us to do this when He said, “Occupy till I come.” The word ‘occupy’ meant to ‘take more market share’ as it was a business term very familiar in the market place of His day.
This means letting go of those who think the Church is all about them – having their needs met, their agenda accepted, their understanding received. This means being willing to make the tough calls – and preaching about a biblical lifestyle that no longer accepts what we are coming to see a “regular life with a Christian veneer.” Don’t want to build relationships and see the lost come to know Jesus – maybe it is time to declare yourself for what you are – non-Christians. Don’t want to tithe – maybe it is time for you to realize that your god is really Mammon and that you can’t worship Mammon and the Lord Jesus Christ. It is time to stop deceiving yourself and move on with the Kingdom or move out of the way so that the Church can move forward and fulfill the call on it’s life – which is not to make you feel comfortable, safe, secure … or accepted, needed, wanted, and loved.
It is decision time – and it is no longer good enough to decorate the outside so we look like we are a successful church because we have attracted a crowd. Time to stop decorating the outside without reordering the inside. Otherwise we are simply another group, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who are ‘hypocrites’ and ‘white-washed tombs,’ polished on the outside but seriously rotting on the inside.” (Matthew 23:27).
Let’s take seriously every word that Jesus spoke (and speaks today) and stop deceiving ourselves that everything is fine when it is not. It is an amazing challenge to be on a journey with Jesus. Let’s rise to the real challenge of the day and be the Church that Jesus is building. Let’s “seek first the Kingdom….” Let’s continue to pray “Thy Kingdom come.” It is time for self-examination and to “test ourselves,” as Paul states in 2 Corinthians, to see if we are still in the faith or ever were. It is time to confront those who are saying they are believers but live a life that seriously (and publicly) denies their claim.