The theme of the day, both for the service and the town hall (#4) was our “leadership challenge” as we find we have fewer and fewer people to do the same number of roles we’ve always had. Here are a few key points from the message. The first point, I need to admit, is not directly derived from scripture, but felt important to share.
In the church, when we use of the word “lead” or leadership we really are talking about two different things.
Most of the time we mean leading as in “manage” or “running” an existing ministry or program or committee. We call that leading.
Leadership proper is something different.
I’ll explain that by going back to last Sunday’s look at Vision and Mission.
Vision is a dream or idea about a preferred future…
Mission is the “how” of putting that vision into action…
Vision comes out of a restlessness, a seeking, a dissatisfaction with what is, a sense that more could be.
In Christianity vision is energized by Holy Zeal and healthy Urgency for something greater.
Are you there yet? Probably so far you are just feeling anxiety, but that anxiety can help us get motivated.
Mission, the putting into action, the doing–for most people in churches that is an easier thing once the vision is stated and agreed to. “Just tell us what to do.”
I see a direct line of connection between Vision and the real meaning of leading, and between Mission and Management or running a program.
True Leadership is to always be looking ahead to the preferred future and motivating people toward it.
Management takes the vision and turns it into Mission, into a plan of action.
And that is where the problem in churches often starts.
You might remember how I talked about how the life of a church is somewhat like four friends going on a trip. Their names are Vision, Relationship, Program and Maintenance. At first the Vision of going to a particular place is driving the journey. But eventually by the end, Maintenance or Managing is driving, vision is asleep.
If I understand your story well, there was a lot of vision behind moving out here. Building a church that finally had room for all the young families… And then they didn’t come along… and this congregation struggled… and here you are. That vision is designed into the building! I can see it!
But that vision is asleep now, and a new one needs to be found.
Finding vision takes leadership. Those who are good at running programs, valuable as that is, unless encouraged well and equipped, do not become visionary leaders.
“True Leadership is to always be looking ahead to the preferred future and motivating people toward it.”
IF that kind of leadership is lacking in a congregation, or is ignored or suppressed… … …
Leadership is not being the boss or CEO
In the passage from Matthew, an important distinction is made about leadership.
Christ-like leaders are not about gathering power to themselves so they can order people around.
We follow a saviour who, instead of ordering his followers around, washed their feet, told them to put their worldly weapons away, and then died for them.
… … …
One of the dangerous trends in North American churches has been the invasion of business approaches into the culture of the church. Pastors believed they were to be CEO’s, casting the vision and taking off with it regardless of whether people were coming along… here’s a check for you: If you see yourself as a leader but no one is going with you, you are not a leader…
Our passage from Matthew says leaders in the church are servants even as they lead.
In 1 peter 2 we are told we are all pastors and leaders with a role to play
Our bible tells us that God made humankind to live in fellowship with him and each other in the perfect garden he made.
Adam and Eve broke the relationship when they reached for the forbidden fruit.
Not too long ago we had been looking at the biblical story of how God was taking his people out of the clutches of Pharaoh and bringing them to a place of promise. The promised land. (we are going to get back to that, I hope)
A place where God was planning to have them live in the best possible relationship with him. Where they would live in such a fine bond that others in the world would want to be part of that way of being.
What exactly does God have in mind with this group of people?
The first important passage which speaks of that is Ex 19, verses 5 and 6, where God says he is creating a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
At the point God says this, it is exactly three months since they left Egypt, and Moses meets with God, and God gives this message:
‘. . .Now if you obey me fully and keep my
covenant, then out of all nations you will be
my treasured possession. Although the whole
earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom
of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the
words you are to speak to the Israelites.
That is an early mission and vision statement by God, for the people he is trying to form… It is God’s plan, God’s aim.
We find the mission statement restated in 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 9, but there, in the New Testament, it is stated as already in place:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priest-
hood, a holy nation, a people belonging to
God, that you may declare the praises of him
who called you out of darkness into
his wonderful light.
l Peter 2:9
That is our main passage to contemplate for today.
Peter has just reminded them of the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and then he tells them:
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a nation set apart. And you are it for a purpose: To praise God. To live in the light. To actually be a people unified under God and in God.
There is a lot of background in this, but it comes down to the fact that Jesus combined the role of Old style go-between priest and sacrifice in himself.
In becoming himself a sacrifice and offering, with his lifeblood spilled on the cross, he fulfilled the old covenant on the people’s behalf –instead of them– and replaced it with a new agreement, a new covenant, and also a new kind of mediation or priesthood.
This priesthood is the one spoken of in Ex 19
Now, under the new covenant, only faith in the sacrifice of Jesus was what could bring a person back into relationship with God. No animals needed to die, no price needed to be paid anymore.
Peter, the apostle, looked back from the perspective of living after Pentecost, experiencing the fledgling church as described in Acts chapter 2 as he writes our text.
Peter knows that everyone who comes to believe in the saving, voluntary, mediating sacrifice of Jesus becomes a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and becomes a priest. No exemptions.
Here is the main significance of this: All these priests now have direct contact with God. They do not need someone in between anymore. That gap has been bridged by Jesus!
When you study the history of the church since Acts 2, you will find that when the priesthood of all believers is forgotten and not followed, the church often falls away from it’s mission and God’s vision for her.
There is a human, fallen tendency to want to lift some people into a higher priesthood within the church, and to believe these people then have better access to God than others.
And the priesthood of the average believer is lost, and they forget that they can in fact have direct relationship with God. And the people begin to lose the truth that it is all about relationship with God. What happens then is that they put too much on the Pastor or Elder or Bishop or TV evangelist to ‘bring them to God’ as we might say it.
The loss of this teaching and it’s practice causes many to spiritually fade away, even as they might be calling out for the pastor or Elder to visit and bring God closer to them… … …