Reading the Bible seems to be much richer these days as the Lord affords deep reflection on my days as a Christ follower. I have spent most of my life within a limiting framework, laid my well-meaning men and women of faith, whose focus has been on reaching the masses. “Doing church” is about the masses and of course bringing others the good news of the gospel. Yet as I get older, I wonder if we, “us” have not missed the good news, in the thick of our attempts at delivery to the “them”?
In fact, those who choose to deliver “them”, may by that choice reap the greatest life benefit in the process, “the ministry”? This is certainly evident among those who minister in one neighborhood and live in the prosperity of another. On the other hand, those following may become lost in the masses, with little awareness of their sordid plight. Followers readily take on the persona of the “stiff necked and rebellious”, needing a deliverer, which in turn strengthens the position of those even unwittingly desiring to “lead”. Unfortunately, this lessens the odds that those being led will ever arrive at the destination which these well-meaning leaders, biased by the evolving church culture, actually desire to take them.
Does God see us as stiff necked or as His beloved sons of God (the real Good News)? Does God desire a few good men that lead masses of blind and rebellious, or an army of “joint heirs with Jesus Christ”? Maybe it is not the heart of our leaders that is my frustration, but rather the mission limiting leadership model that has emerged?
What is my point? After a half a century of service in the church and numerous conversations among leaders, many who have lost their pastoral heart and truly regard the people in the pew as those who seldom get “it”, always ripe for disunity, will not buckle down in the work of the Lord…and so on, goes the litany of the leader’s challenges. I have to wonder if in fact we are delivering what God intended.
Is God’s plan built around an industrial model with limited slots for leadership, each with a disproportionate need for followers; or are we as leaders somehow minimizing what God had intended? Are we so focused on maintaining our own herd, rather than fulfilling the mission of each individual life whom we are privileged to pasture (pun intended)? Is our role not to bring individual people to an awareness that they too are to become emulators Christ, by the Holy Spirit; that they themselves are expected to become great leaders, born again with new purpose?
What started all this was a study of David, one of those devotional moments that begins to follow a mental thread and then expands to bring about an “aHa” moment of revelation. David was a Christ type, as was Moses and before him, Joseph. All three were deliverers, though under very different circumstances. Yet, like Jonah, all these men had their own personal struggles with those whom they were called to lead. Yet, unlike the beautiful Christ, who dwelt among us so that we all could aspire to be like Him, the previous were mere mortals, the Biblical record reveals their warts, lest we overly glorify their leadership and even undersell ourselves!
These men were who they were because of a personal relationship with Yahweh, none were schooled in leadership, save possibly Moses. All became who they were through the tragedies of life, afforded by the God who was leading them. Have we now framed the gospel in such a way that people need a leader rather than expecting to become one as they journey with Christ? The Body of Christ should afford opportunity for all to lead, in a world that gropes for leadership; meanwhile we have only developed churches, and churches that have leaders skilled in sustaining follow-ship, while even those leaders become more isolated from the world they should be leading!
Somehow, I wonder if in the delivery of this great message of hope, designed with the expectation that we all aspire to be Christ-like leaders, the majority have bought into the bog of the masses, needing a deliverer rather than becoming one? Then, in some self-fulfilling prophecy our lives become about following, even associating ourselves with the dregs of humanity as an act of “humility”, buying into the lot that constantly burden real leaders. In all this dysfunction, the leadership that would otherwise lift humanity lacks the capital to bring His Kingdom to this Earth, the Church’s full mission.
Meanwhile we worship weekly; waiting on a Messiah, with some of us of necessity whipped into line as followers; and in doing so, the church fails to deliver the dream that is captive inside each individual; a dream sufficient to redeem creation.
Howbeit even as I write, the people of the world we so desire to reach, and now our own nation, suffer daily from a dearth of integrity and leadership from congress to Main Street.
Are you a leader? Does your community know it?