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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Whither, Leaders?

Where are your church's leaders trying to take you?

The idea of "leadership" as applied to churches has, I fear, fallen prey to institutionalization.

Churches, as institutions, need leaders. And leadership in churches is a necessary and venerable institution.

But when an institution succumbs to institutionalization, it ceases to perform its intended purpose and, instead, becomes an end in itself. This is what has happened to church leadership in many congregations. Everyone knows who the leaders are, but no one can tell us what they do or where, in particular, they're trying to lead us.

In a recent blog on leadership Elijah May pointed out that leaders can be effective agents of change if they have a clear vision of how things ought to be. Leadership, he writes, "is not the undertaking of a non-conformist soul in search of meaning in the world, but rather the endeavor of a man or woman with a very clear sense of purpose… a man or woman who can clearly communicate that purpose to others."

He explains further, "Throughout human history, from simple survival, to civilization, to politics and business, people have shown a willingness to take great leaps of faith based entirely on one person’s ability to paint a picture of the future. And whereas none could be assured of such a future, the simple clarity of vision was enough for people to risk life and livelihood in pursuit of it."

This is what is lacking in too many church leaders today: Leaders are such in name only. They have no clear sense of what their churches should become or be doing, and no understanding of how they ought to function, other than to do whatever is necessary to perpetuate the status quo indefinitely into the future.

Jesus was certainly not that kind of "leader." Nor were the apostles. They had a clear and compelling vision of the Kingdom of God and the kind of life-changing, world-transforming impact it could make. They preached and taught that vision. The committed their lives to demonstrating and pursuing the Kingdom. And they called their followers to love the coming of God's Kingdom more than their possessions, comfort, families, or any aspect of the status quo.

Where are such leaders in churches today? And where are they trying to lead us? Many people - especially many young people - are becoming disillusioned and impatient with churches today. Attendance is declining in many places. Giving is down. Programs are managing to retain the status quo, but that's about it. Even megachurch pastors are complaining that, for all their size and appearance of success, they're changing neither lives, nor communities, nor the times in which we live.

Where are your church's leaders trying to take you? Have you asked them about their vision for your church? For what your church hopes to accomplish in reviving church members, renewing the mission and impact of the church, and bringing the awakening light of God's Kingdom to the community and the world?

I urge you to ask these questions, over and over, until you begin getting some satisfactory answers. Ask them graciously, and ask them in a spirit of readiness and availability - offer to do whatever you can to help.

As Columbanus (fl. 600) once observed of the dying churches in Gaul, the vessel of Christ is taking on serious water. Her progress is stalling, and she is very near to being submerged under the oppressive weight of the materialistic, hedonistic, and relativistic status quo. Without brave and visionary leaders - and willing crews - the churches will continue to sink into marginality and irrelevance.

And if that continues, be sure of this: God will take His Kingdom and pursue it elsewhere. He has promised that, of the increase of Christ's Kingdom and righteousness there shall be no end (Is. 9.6, 7; cf. Dan. 2.44, 45). And if we're not going to envision that increase and devote ourselves to the pursuit of it, then we can expect the glory of the Lord to depart our churches and to seek other venues where His Word and calling are taken seriously.

It comes down to the leaders we appoint and what we expect of them.

Related texts: Daniel 2.44, 45; Isaiah 9.6, 7; Micah 4.1-5; Matthew 6.10, 33; Romans 14.17, 18

A conversation starter: Ask your church leaders, "What is your vision for us as a church - me as a follower of the Lord and us as His Body in this community, in these uncertain times?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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