Sunday, March 30, 2008

Who Needs Human Leaders?

After recently noting the dread of human leadership evident in Pagan Christianity, I thought it would be good to review some points about the relationship between divine empowerment and leadership on one hand, and human leadership on the other.

The key to success in ministry, as God defines success, is getting in line with what God wants to do, or is doing. The biblical concept of ministry is serving God or other people in a way that furthers God’s will or purpose. Further, true ministry must be empowered and directed by God. God is clear that "it is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing." (John 6:63) He warns in the Old Testament that, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they do labor in vain that build it." (Psalms 127:1) Paul said the apostles were those who "glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh." (Phil. 3:3) These passages and many others all suggest the same thing: If God’s power moves through us in ministry, spiritual fruit will be borne. If his power is not animating our ministry, nothing we do will help the situation.

Over against the biblical teaching about the centrality of God in ministry, the Bible teaches that human agency is also significant. In each case where a church is planted in the book of Acts, one or more humans went to that city and were used by God to plant it. Paul teaches that God presents members of the Body of Christ with gifts, ministries, and effects for his glory, and for the common good. (1 Cor. 12:4-7) Paul goes so far as to say that people cannot believe unless they hear, and they can’t hear unless someone preaches. (Rom. 10:14) He also says God has "committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2Cor. 5:19)

In other words, God wants to work his will through the agency of cooperating Christians servants who understand his ways and actively move out to become "fellow workers with God." (1 Cor. 3:7) The degree to which God has delegated the task of reaching the world to humans is remarkable. One important function that God expects many Christians to carry out for him is leadership. From one end of the Bible to the other, God worked through human leaders. Most of the great heroes of faith from Abraham to Moses to David to Paul were leaders. In the New Testament the role of human leader is expanded further. No longer is leadership reserved for kings or priests. In the Body of Christ, the apostles regularly appointed leadership in every locality from common people.

Jesus' observation that "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few," and his call to "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field," both imply that God's intentions on earth may be thwarted by a shortage of qualified leaders. (Mat. 9:37,38) In order for home churches to replicate themselves, leaders must be raised up. Therefore, for those of us who are concerned about following God and seeing his will done on earth, the matter of finding and establishing human leadership is urgent.

Obviously, if human leadership didn't matter—if all ministry is up to God alone, all groups would be the same. But this is not the case. How often we see God’s power restricted in groups with poor leaders! Meanwhile, other groups seem to flourish both inwardly and in outward growth. God sends leaders into his flock to galvanize and excite people, reminding them of their mission, and firing their imagination for the future. Our tasks can seem routine and uninteresting when carried out without the benefit of leadership. Yet when a good leader arrives, those same tasks seem exciting and worthwhile.

Questions to be answered:

If we accept this view, what does it mean for our actions and attitudes?

What are the signs that we are placing adequate emphasis on God's part in ministry?

What signs would suggest we are putting too much onto God (super-spirituality)?

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