Go First! (part one)
Could you imagine the impact of a largely leaderless Church for, say, 400 years?
Well, look around…
We’re heading for the home stretch on this examination of courageous Christian leadership. The impetus for my challenges and observations is Edwin Friedman’s wonderful book: A Failure of Nerve. Thus far, we’ve made eight observations about leadership amidst a culture of cowardice:
One: Courageous leadership is not about skill, technique, or knowledge. It is, most of all, about the presence of the leader as he or she moves through life.
Two: Take full responsibility for your own emotional being and destiny.
Three: Promote healthy differentiation within the church or system you lead.
Four: Stand, as an exemplar, in the sabotage and backlash that must come.
Five: Don’t “push on the rope”: the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.
Six: Undermine the 80/20 Rule.
Seven: Reintroduce yourself to the adventurous life.
Eight: Disengage an unreasonable faith in reasonableness.
This brings us to the ninth principle: Go first.
Ever wonder what happened to the Church the Apostle Paul envisioned in Ephesians chapter four? A Church in which the saints are the “ministers.”
Paul is clear:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… and become mature… Then we will no longer be infants… Instead… we will grow to become in every respect the mature body… the whole body… grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. [Ephesians 4:11-16]
In Paul’s conception, Christ gives ministers to the church to train, develop, and equip the members to minister, to mature in every respect, and to w-o-r-k.
Religious educators who teach, and teach, and teach the saints who sit, and sit, and sit while they learn, and learn, and learn.
The saints serving.
The body maturing.
Every part working.
What if the culprit is not so much the laziness and lethargy of the saints but the focus and function of the clergy?
See, Christ himself gave apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching gifts to equip his Church for maturity and ministry.
An overwhelming super-abundance of pastor-teachers.
Imagine a softball team in which all nine positions are played by catchers. Very well equipped catchers.
Can you see it?
Catcher’s glove. Catcher’s mask. Shin pads. The whole get-up.
Now, put that catcher on the mound and ask her to pitch… Put her in left to run down a deep fly ball… Or, at shortstop to turn a ground ball into a double play.
This is the Church in the West today.
People who learn lots of things, important things, and not much else.
I’m not denigrating the teaching gift. I’m denigrating the notion of the teaching-only ministry.
I’m inviting you to look at the results of recurring generations of pastor/teacher-dominant ministry in the West.
Are you impressed by what you see?
Leadership Courage Series # 30
To the Church at Ephesus, Paul wrote: So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… Yet, since the Reformation, the Church in the West has been dominated almost exclusively by those with the pastor-teacher gift.
An apostle is a “sent-one”. Walk into the dozen churches closest to your home and send the members out into the community to minister there. Call them to establish the Kingdom reign and rule of God out there. Challenge them to pioneer fresh and meaningful expressions of ministry that make sense to the prevailing culture — outside their walls.
The Christians in those churches will look at you like you’re nuts! And the longer they’ve been “churched” the more aghast they will be. If they’ve been in church their entire lives, their incredulity will be nearly insurmountable.
The religious culture in which they’ve been steeping has been training them to be scandalized by the assertion that they’re supposed to minister regularly, routinely, naturally, and passionately among those who are not followers of the Christian way. The culture believes that’s what ministers are paid for. “Ministers minister. We come and sit and listen and sort of tithe…”
I’m close to a few Senior Pastors who challenged their people in just this way — and the power brokers who control their elder boards — ran the pastors out. Out of the church. Out of town. Out of pastoral ministry.
It is heartbreaking for the pastors. It’s far more disastrous for the congregations left behind, mired in meaningless maintenance of impotent programs and life-sapping control. The greatest catastrophe, however, is for those the Church continues ignore, insulating them from what would have been provocative demonstrations of Christ’s transformative presence in their midst.
They just go to Hell.
Does this remind you, at all, of Jesus’ words: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either. [Mt 23:13 NLT]
See, the apostolic impetus ignites action. It generates ground-breaking innovation. It leads change. It is consumed with whatever could expand the reach and impact of the Kingdom of God. The apostolic is risk-taking, not safety-centered. Its orientation is forward.
Christ gave the apostolic to the Church for her effectiveness.
And, where it’s missing, minimized, or marginalized, you get, well… you get what we’ve got today.