The wise old Christian leader looked genuine enough, but I’m sure he was harbouring a secret.
But because he’s a model for younger church leaders, they are going to think that he’s telling them the truth, and start to think that all they need to do is preach sermons.
Not so much.
What that wise preacher had done was take his sermons and apply them to the church as a whole, to its plans and structures, budgets and decision making. He constantly asked how the scriptures required his church to change, and then together they planned and worked accordingly.
He also surrounded himself with some savvy people who certainly could tell some stories about how the church had grown, and give some explanatory force to those stories.
Leadership is another aspect of about ministry of the word, surrounded by prayer. If we don’t see that, we’ll apply the bible to individuals, and even to the body, but not to its hard decisions, priorities and future. Leadership says, ‘How do we obey this, together?’
Get this wrong, of course, and we see churches harried and chased by ambitious pastors, who prefer the latest business best-seller to the word of God, and who never celebrate the present because they are only focused on the future. The members feel like numbers in a spread sheet, or cogs in a machine. Pastors, as John Piper has reminded us, are not professionals
But fear of getting it wrong too often leads in a different direction. Not of being soaked in the word of God, and prayer, but an abdication of our God-given leadership task, and a denial of the valid place of wisdom and courage. We’re not amateurs either.
Leadership, says Paul, is to be done with zeal.
Do we consciously take our decision making to the word of God, and ask him we should spend our money, care for our buildings, and develop a staff?
Do we consciously search the Word of God for wisdom on those themes?
How have churches that you have seen grow, grown? What are their habits, structures? How have they changed over time?
Do you aim to cultivate the gift of leadership as much as the gift of teaching?
J I Packer, A Passion for Faithfulness: Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah (Wheaton, Good news, 1995) a series of expositions.
Jim Collins, Good to Great (New York: Random House, 2001). the very best of the wisdom of the world