Words: the leader’s most powerful tool

Our politicians have just refused to speak for 48hrs, and deprived themselves and us of leadership. We preachers can and must do better.

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Leaders explain, articulate, co-ordinate, reconcile, realign, define, and redefine, our next steps.  Every leader knows, or should know, that.

So we should be able to work out that one of our most powerful tools, is our ability to speak.  Organisations are necessarily complex, even small ones, and pastors of average sized churches can struggle to find the levers of power to get things done.  Once we’ve abandoned being a bully, we are left with much subtler and more relationally complex methods. Even denominational leaders know this, and are frustrated by it.

Until one day it dawns on us: we get the microphone.  Even in a teach-one-another church, some people get to be those who are set apart to study and teach everybody else with (derived) authority.

And as Christian leaders and preachers we have the ultimate reason and resource for doing so.  One way of understanding preaching is that we do all of those tasks of explaining, articulating and so on, as we open God’s Word and allow his agenda to shape our reality.  Opening the Bible and sitting under its authority, together, allows God to relativise and correct our concerns, replace our trivialities with his priorities, and bring into effect the reality of his promises.

When we pastors lead people in prayer, we teach them to come to the only King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Ruler of rulers.  He (and yes, Anglicans, I’m walking us through one of our prayers) turns the hearts of those in authority as it seems best to his godly wisdom.  In a democracy, that means he turns the hearts of every voter, and oversees every cross in the ballot paper, whether it leads to godliness or folly.  We know this, we pray this, and we must preach and teach this. There is a Higher Throne.  The future is always bright, not because of a booming economy, but because of the overwhelming weight of ever-increasing glory.

And because we are pastors and know our sheep, that means that when they are disturbed or frightened, we speak directly to that issue.  That’s why last Sunday I spoke at all our main services, giving a brief comment on how our church, with members who voted both ways, must now model trust, forgiveness, love and welcome.  The web seemed to be melting down in bile and accusation, but we can and must do better, because of the gospel.

I assume I wasn’t the only one.

By comparison, think what happened in public yesterday: the microphones in front of the leading politicians remained resolutely muted.  The only ones who appeared with any personal presence, were explaining their resignation.  There was an absence of words.

Biblically, we are convinced that our hearing God’s Word is the way he shepherds his flock.  And we have had a major object lesson this weekend in the much simpler human reality which echoes that.  We wanted leaders who would speak for and to us, articulate what would hold us together, and chart a path through to a better place.

There was none.  Not outside the preachers, anyway.

It’s time we stepped up to the microphone.

If you’re interested, this is what I said in our announcements yesterday:

Let me state the obvious: we are a close-knit team of Christians, who love the Lord and each other. We worship together  and work together, and we voted on both sides of the Referendum.  That means the win/lose divide runs run through us.

Some of us are therefore feeling quite optimistic, others pessimistic.  Some will feel they belong strongly, others will feel less so.

Cards on the table: I voted to Remain, but it wasn’t an easy decision.  I’m in the group that feels a bit bruised, disappointed, and as though I’m going to enjoy Britain a little bit less.

I’m telling you why I voted and that it wasn’t easy for a reason: we all need to recognise that there were Christian reasons for voting either way.  Loving our neighbours, honouring our leaders, expressing values that sit with Christian truth, can take several forms.

And there were also good, sound reasons for both views. The reason I found it a tough call was that if I thought economically, I was ‘In’, but if I thought constitutionally I was ‘Out.’  I love living in a buzzy, multicultural part of the world – but I know might not think that if I lived in East Anglia and could not get a job because a high level of immigration had pushed wages down. Just because someone voted the other way to us does not mean that they were economically ignorant, politically naive, or expressing hatred rather than love.

There were and are some pretty nasty, untruthful and ignorant viewpoints expressed, and there are some politicians and vocal viewpoints out there who turn my stomach.  Again, on both sides.  But (a big but) we must not assume the worst of each other. ‘Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.’ (1 Cor 13:7).

If you’re feeling bruised because you lost, I get that.  And if the vote had gone the other way, some of us would have been feeling quite betrayed.

Let’s model the fact that we believe and trust in a King who rules the nations.  Let’s demonstrate that we pray for our leaders, national and international – in my view, our American members face a far more difficult decision than the one just gone. Let’s recognise that some of us will be feeling a bit unsettled and maybe fearful at the moment – and let me appeal to those who voted Leave to be super-sensitive to that.

Jesus is Lord

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