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Friday, July 31, 2009

Christian Leaders

Christian leaders cannot claim to serve Christ faithfully if we allow believers to remain on the wrong track. It is our responsibility to address their ignorance and their sin. It is our responsibility to lead them to better conclusions about themselves, about God and about the world in general.

This is what I believe, and find to be the most Biblical view of Christian leadership's role.

So why is this noteworthy today? I suppose it's on my mind because I find so few Christian leaders who seem to share the belief. So many of them seem content with one-way broadcasts of information. Churches describe their educational "offerings" and assume it is up to the people to sign for this class or that class.

The leaders of the church don't seem to accept much responsibility for the ignorance and sin of the people in the church. Is that really appropriate? I know - we can't control the attitudes and behaviors of people in our church. But when was the last time someone was disciplined in a church for not living to a certain standard of righteousness? How well do churches confront sin among their people? I think we've swung pretty far below a happy medium here.

People come into churches to seek God. That's what we'd all like to believe. But the fact of the matter is that some of them aren't seeking God at all. They're seeking to feel better about themselves. They're seeking relief from emotional or spiritual pain they may be feeling. They're seeking companionship or fellowship. They're seeking an emotional experience. Some of them are seeking education.

The point is that people who come into our churches probably need to be taught to seek God. It may never have occurred to them that they should "seek Him first." Even if it did, they don't know of a practical way to put that into application in their lives. Perhaps the most frightening thing is that the behavior of the churches could mislead them in this way. I've seen many people who think that taking a class at their church is the way to seek God. It's a tool that can be used of course, but it is not the way.

So how can Christian leaders take more responsibility for the spiritual maturity, world view and sin of the people in their churches, cell groups, etc.? What do church leaders do with the ignorance of the people in their charge? How much of that ignorance does God expect the leaders to own? Can that ignorance be addressed in a Sunday sermon and an occasional class?

I once had a job as pastor of "spiritual formation and ministry development." I found that spiritual formation efforts were the ones I liked the most. Oddly, I found an incredible dichotomy between spiritual formation and ministry development. I wasn't too keen on ministry development ... because I couldn't see where it did much to form the character and nature of Christ in the people (i.e., spiritual formation). How strange.

Let's face it, our people are ignorant because they don't know. Perhaps they are even content with their ignorance - and don't have a desire to know. Are we teaching them the value of knowledge? Are we teaching them how to learn? Are we modeling a teachable spirit for them ourselves?

Our people sin because it is who they are. They won't stop sinning unless they are confronted and led to righteousness; led to a better conclusion. Even if they want to stop sinning, our people often don't know how to repent. They think that repentance is the same as guilt and shame. (It's not.)

You know, I think there is a dirty little secret in American churches. It is that they are not very effective. They don't take irreligious people and turn them into fully-devoted (i.e., obedient) followers of Christ. They may be big, large, financially sound and hip or successful churches. They may be popular churches. They may have a TV show, radio broadcast or other impressive ministries. But let's get honest here ... that's not the definition of an effective church.

So Christian leaders, what can we do to be more effective? How can we do a better job of leading people to fully submitted lives under Christ? And there it is, the million dollar question.

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