Looking For Leaders Who Empower
One of the great things about the Church that Christ died to purchase and establish, is the fact that it is a place where everyone belongs, everyone is valued, and everyone is responsible for its life. And even though that is the purpose of the Church, some people are not very deeply connected. At best they are like customers who show up to their favorite restaurant once a week, order an appetizing and nourishing meal, enjoy the pleasant surroundings, and then get up and go home. There is no sense of connectedness with one another.
We are in an exciting time for our church. If you are visiting with us today expecting a normal Easter message you are going to be a bit disappointed. Last week we started the process of looking for leaders; men to join our existing shepherds that see this church as a family rather than an organizational flow chart or business plan. We are looking for shepherds that are connected with this body through service, sacrifice, and submission. We need flexible people in leadership who can think creatively.
What we don’t need is insecure people who can't trust others to have motives and abilities as good as their own, or men who need to micromanage others, or who get drunk with their own importance when trusted to lead, or who think their personal insights are better than those of the larger group of which they are a part. In short we need men who will let folks buy paint.
You look a bit confused, so let me explain that. In churches that I have served in, there is this problem that reinvents itself among the leadership. Somewhere, and sometime ago men were asked to serve because of their good business sense, and not because of their relationship with God and the flock. Probably because they wanted to make good decisions and not waste the Lord’s money the decision was made that only the elders had the ability to purchase what the church needed. If you wanted something you would ask the elders and if they saw a need for it, they would go out and get it.
So if the deacon over buildings and grounds wanted to paint a classroom, he would go to the elders and make a request. If they saw the need they would go out and buy the paint. That deacon was really frustrated and vowed that if he ever became an elder he wouldn’t be so tight fisted.
Well, that deacon eventually became an elder, and it was time to paint a classroom. The current deacon asked if he could paint the classroom and this new elder, who was never allowed to buy paint as a deacon, finally gets the chance to spend some of the Lord’s money. So he tells the deacon that he will go out and get the paint so that we don’t waste the Lords money. Now the new deacon is frustrated and the cycle continues.
As long as a church is stuck in this cycle, they will struggle with elders that do not trust the flock and a church that does not trust her leaders. When that is the case, the best we can be is a group of folks who "do church" institutionally. If we are only functioning institutionally, we aren't really the church. A business maybe. Perhaps a club or restaurant. But not the family of God.
In the earliest days of the first church in Jerusalem, everything seems to have flowed from the personal leadership of the twelve apostles. But that church grew so large so rapidly that those twelve men could not meet all of the needs. I appreciate the fact that we see in our model of the early church that the leaders were flexible enough to empower others to do ministry.
Luke writes in the book of Acts that a problem emerged where the Hellenist widows were being neglected. In Acts 6 we find the Godly way that the twelve handled that challenge, and that the church grew because of their decision. Read Acts 6:1-6
Maybe some of you have heard of the book Flight of the Buffalo. Published in 1994, it was a national best-seller on leadership. The authors set forth the premise in the book that effective organizations are the ones that give up the command-and-control model for a more flexible shared, empowering leadership model. I want to share a few passages with you:
“Early settlers on the American frontier decimated the huge buffalo herds they found there. It was rather easy because of how buffalo herds operate. Buffalo follow a single leader. A hunter would watch a herd for a day or so, spot the lead animal, and move in to kill it. The rest of the herd would simply stand there, waiting for their leader to show them the next move. While they stood there, hunters picked them off one after another and slaughtered whole herds.” The authors argue that some businesses have failed because they had a single visionary, a single planner, a single leader. He drops dead or loses his vision or doesn't spot changes in the market, and the company fails and goes belly-up. Does that sound like anything you've ever seen in a church?
The apostles never thought the church belonged to them; they knew it is the Body of Christ. The apostles weren't power-hungry; they relinquished a ministry over which they had held authority. The apostles weren't arrogant; they knew others could handle something they had been overseeing. And they knew they were supposed to do their primary work of teaching the Word of God. As important as ministry to the widows in that church was, they knew it was not their personal calling or their strength. So they empowered the members of the body to do that ministry.
Let me share another passage from Flight of the Buffalo; it fits what I see happening at Jerusalem.
“Then one day I got it. What I really wanted in [my business] was a group of responsible, interdependent workers, similar to a flock of geese [instead of a herd of buffalo]. I could see the geese flying in their "V" formation, the leadership changing frequently, with different geese taking the lead. I saw every goose being responsible for getting itself to wherever the gaggle was going, changing roles whenever necessary, alternating as a leader, a follower, or a scout. And when the task changed, the geese would be responsible for changing the structure of the group to accommodate . . .
Then I saw clearly that the biggest obstacle to success was my picture of a loyal herd of buffalo waiting for me, the leader, to tell them what to do. I knew I had to change the pictures to become a different kind of leader, so everyone could become a leader.”
One of the reasons that the early church exploded in growth was because her leaders did not adopt a buffalo-mentality. They were secure enough to allow the church to find men to coordinate caring for the widows. Their theory seems to be that leadership could rise from below and could be recognized by the church. That is our theory of leadership here, our current bishops are empowering. And as we look for additional leadership we must pray that God will raise up additional leaders to join our shepherds.
As we close this morning I want to quickly call attention to the three fundamental qualities that every man and woman in the church must have who aspires to leadership whether it is in the role of a shepherd, teacher, ministry leader, counselor, or any other spiritual ministry.
The three essential qualities of spiritual leadership are found in Acts 6:
First, a church leader must be "of good standing" within the group.
The authority to lead others in spiritual matters does not flow from titles and positions but from a life that is authentic. I believe that leadership is more a network of influence within a group than a degree held or books read. You can always spot a leader within any group, and in this process we want to name the men who are already leading. We want to affirm people who already exhibit positive influence through their authentic Christian presence rather than to appoint some people we hope can develop that sort of lifestyle.
Second, spiritual leaders are "full of the Spirit."
Galatians 5:22-23 names some of the traits of a personality that is Spirit-filled, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. The Holy Spirit of God indwells every saved person and makes his or her body into a temple, but some people are further along than others in surrendering to the Spirit. The evidence of that surrender is in life-traits of generosity and faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Finally, we are looking for people "full of wisdom."
Wisdom is problem-solving ability. I like to think of it as holy common sense. It is the ability to avoid panic in a crisis, to get and focus on good information, and to discover through prayer and spiritual discernment a course to follow that honors the Lord.
One of the evidences of wisdom in church leadership is not only personal discernment but understanding that one's task is to teach and raise up others with such wisdom. We need shepherds who know their task is to create a church culture and leadership structure that will outlive them.
Another evidence of wisdom is the ability to hear other people. Too often it works out that people who think their eyes have been opened to a vision immediately close their ears to others around them. We read in James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.
I know that this is not your normal easter sermon, and that’s ok. I hope that you have heard this morning that biblical leadership is built on the foundation of being the person God expects every one of His children to be. Church leaders are simply those people who are a little further along in the process of spiritual living. Their character, reputation, and life skills are seen as worth imitating. I believe that a leader is someone who is going somewhere with such confidence and clarity that others fall in behind.
The church needs leaders who show wisdom, faithfulness, and obedience. And they need to inspire those qualities in our lives as well. When that happens, it gets better for all of us. The church gets healthier. And God is both honored and pleased.
If you are here today and feel an emptiness, maybe that’s God’s way of enticing you to become a part of something greater than your self. Something that is greater than anything you have ever known before. I believe that our risen Savior is inviting you to a relationship. But it is an invitation that you must accept.
Questions to Consider
Questions From Class
What are some of the ideas that the phrase “husband of one wife” brings to mind?
How does this characteristic fit into the idea that, “An elder can only lead where followed”?
How does maturity lead to vigilance?
How does a sober minded person make a decision? Why would that be important in the life of the church?
Questions from the Sermon
What is the role of a elder?
How can doing the business of the church interfere with their God given responsibility?
What role do the deacons have in allowing the elders to shepherd?
How does empowering the congregation facilitate trust?
What can you, as a member of the family, do to allow the elders to be shepherds?