As the magnitude of the Haiti earthquake continues to unfold, yet again we find ourselves pondering on the frailty and vulnerability of the human race. As days pass, will we soon forget these things and return to our insignificant, egotistical lives or will we take heed that life is frail and short; that none of us know when the end of our life will come; that the little time we have on earth is extremely precious and must not be wasted; that in the end only those things which we do for the glory of God will remain.
Even within Christian circles, will we continue deceiving ourselves that we do what we do because we seek to bring honour and glory to God, when in reality though we give high and lofty names to the things we do, much of it is for our own glory and recognition? How can the goal of church growth be treated with more importance and urgency than the spiritual health of those who are already members of a church? How can church leadership chuck thousands and thousands of pounds/dollars in attending seminars, courses, conferences, spiritual retreats when so very little of the church budget goes to mission, to the very thing that Jesus said his followers would be known for? Do you think Jesus would accept that whilst people are perishing both physically and spiritually, our main concern is to amount more money so that we can invest in yet more knowledge?
Truth is, the more voices we listen to and read from, the more confused and lost we get. The word of God alone describes pretty clearly how the life of a follower of Jesus Christ should be, specially that of spiritual leaders, and puffing themselves up with more knowledge and power is certainly not following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. How can His power shine in our weakness, when church leaders consider any kind of weakness detrimental to the concept of being a leader? They are not to be seen struggling in any way, for that would taint their image of having it all together and under control, that would point to the fact that perhaps they are not called to lead, but much more to follow, which indeed we all are: to pick up our cross and follow the Lord. One only has to read about the great figures in the Bible to see that God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. Those who think too highly of themselves and who Lord it over the rest are doomed for failure in the Kingdom of God.
Do you ever see the pastor being prayed for at a service as a result of the Holy Spirit convicting him of something? Do you ever see members of the prayer ministry team being prayed for at a service? No. More often than not, you won’t see them. Church leadership regards itself and is regarded by most as being in a league of their own, high and above everybody else, with a special calling that surpasses anything else within a church, and so they seem to be immune to the sinful nature, the doubts or the fear that torments the rest of us and brings us to our knees to implore for Jesus’ grace and mercy.
You know, it gets to me when I see countless pastors primarily, attending leadership conferences, evangelism conferences, seminars, you name it, with the excuse of equipping themselves so that they can equip others to do the Lord’s work. Hang on a minute! Have they not already attended seminary or bible college in order to be recognised for knowing the word of God in depth, for having the authority to lead others in spiritual matters? Isn’t that precisely the reason why they get paid for what they do? Or have we walked so far away from Jesus’ teachings that parishioners’ money is in fact spent in re-educating the ones who are meant to be teaching us? Why is it then than instead of solely seeking guidance from the word of God and the Holy Spirit, they continue to look for new and fancy ways to attract more people through their doors? Could it be that perhaps just like the rest of us, they do not have all the answers and are in as much need of guidance and spiritual leadership as the rest of us? Could it be that just like the rest of us, they are weak and rather than spend time in solitude and prayer in God’s presence, they take the easy option and listen to someone else’s interpretation of what each passage of scripture means? Why go through something as dreary and unexciting as seeking the leading of the Lord in the quiet of one’s home, when one can have all expenses paid, make friends and be entertained all at once by attending one of these retreats or conferences? Why feed on hundreds of different books, evangelism theories, success formulas, over and over and over again if they are already a leader? Isn’t someone who calls themselves a leader already supposed to know what they are doing, where they are going and how to best get there? Why the need to continuously seek for “the latest craze” within Christian religious circles? Is the word of God alone not enough any more? And doesn’t it bother you that our role model for leadership should be Jesus Christ himself, and yet, all church leaders seem to care about is how to best be a “leader”, in the world’s eyes, that is? They display and model a leadership where humility, servanthood, compassion, pastoral care, encouragement, vulnerability and transparency shine for their absence.
Does everything your church leaders do, the way they treat people, the way they invest their time, the way they spend their money, do these things point out to the supremacy of Jesus Christ in their lives or is it more about pretending that it is all about Jesus when in reality the Lord is being short-changed and only given the crumbs that fall of the table? Listen to their sermons, read what they write, listen to their conversations and the people they draw towards themselves and those they gravitate toward. Does any of it point to the wonder of the cross? Does any of it point to a sacrificial life that welcomes suffering because it is in our sufferings that the Lord’s glory can become ablaze with mightier strength, or are they always talking and writing about how to make their churches bigger and better? How to get more publicity for what they do? How to raise more funds for bigger projects?
Isn’t ironic that despite all the seminars, all the big shots in the public arena, the wanna-bes who call themselves leaders but all they do is follow another “leader’s” regurgitated new theory which they in turn have concluded from the hundred seminars they themselves attended, despite all of that, the majority in the Body of Christ, specially those in leadership are absolutely clueless when it comes to what it really means to be a leader in the Body of Christ as Jesus understood it. The church leader Jesus had in mind is a humble person who is not so concerned with more people, more money, more power, bigger audiences, more opportunities, bigger barns. How different are we from the rest of the world when though we strive for more people to get to know Jesus, we sacrifice the people for the cause itself? We care more for being known for “leading” others to Christ through cleverly designed campaigns and contrived efforts to make things fit than by soothing the grief of a person who mourns, visiting the infirm, consoling the broken-hearted, feeding the poor, helping those with addiction or sexual immorality, and the list goes on and on.
The next time you go to church, have a good look around you. Do you see the pews filled with people who fall into any of the categories above described or are the pews filled with “near perfect people” who are being trained by their leader to recruit yet more soldiers in their church growth crusade? Are the services attended with anyone who is fighting drug addiction, pornography, poverty, alcoholism, domestic violence, lust or anyone who is overcoming rape, the loss of a child, slander, job loss, health issues? Jesus came to heal the sick, and not to stroke the egos of the “enlightened ones” further. If everyone who attends a church is solely accepted in order to be trained and equipped to then bring more people in, that church has lost its way, because everything their vision is about is their own comfort, success and reputation, and not the kind of loving acts and attitudes which point unbelievers towards the glory and mercy of God.
The video below is a very timely and candid reminder of all of the above, but much more eloquently and gracefully delivered than I could ever do. Though the sermon was given in 2003, it is uncanny to see how relevant and accurate its content still is today.