I suspect it won’t surprise you to hear that God has stirred me to pray with more focus and clarity these days. While I served as a pastor I always treasured those times when faithful followers of Jesus would send a message to let me know they were praying specifically for me and other leaders of our church. I would love to invite you into the joy of praying for those who lead your church!
I’ve faced many challenges over the three decades of pastoral ministry, but I never faced what our leaders are dealing with these days! As I assess the challenges and opportunities of these days I’m moved to pray for those who lead; certainly for our president and government leaders, but especially for our elders and pastors. There is not a day, or a moment within the day that our leaders do not need our prayer. I’ve spoken with friends who serve the Lord as under-shepherds this week. They are rethinking just about everything about public ministry these days. As surprised as we all are with the realities of the corona virus, the Lord of the Church is not surprised by this at all. And, our leaders do not need to find creative or trendy answers, they need the Lord’s direction. And, they need those of us who make up the church to follow, with joy!
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13-18
Biblical leadership and followership (should be a word) for Jesus’ Church is so different than leadership in the “world”. Leaders in the church can’t simply look for good, or sensible, or popular ideas. They instead seek a Person and follow Him. We need to know our church leaders are pursuing Jesus or we won’t follow them with much confidence. I really do care less about how my pastor crafts and delivers his sermons (I’m not talking about content, but style) than I do the condition of his ego, and his relationship with Jesus. And, because the Lord has called elders to lead the church, I expect those elders to share a common aim of pursuing the direction of Jesus together. The church should never be led by one man (in my more-or-less humble, yet biblically convinced opinion). A good and godly leader can not be good or godly without being joyfully submissive. That. I think is the point of James 3:17. The elders should pursue discerning the leading of God together on their knees, working through well expressed differences to what could be some crazy steps. Remember, the God we follow has lead His people toward the Red Sea, to battle giants, build a ship, take direction from some really weird prophets, believe our King would die and then not be dead anymore, and… that people whose life is transformed by the God we can’t see will cause us to lay down our preferences and our life to serve others, and give the money in our hand, for their good, His glory, and our joy! Admit it, that’s pretty crazy if God isn’t leading this deal!
And here we are facing the corona virus. I certainly never predicted our current reality! And, in hours and days the leaders of our churches are rethinking how they can be faithful to the Lord’s call to shepherd the people of God. How can we assemble together when we can’t be in the same room? How will care happen? How can we continue to give generously? How can we effectively encourage? How can we share the gospel and disciple?
We have some advantages in the U.S. that many of my friends in less developed countries don’t have. Last Sunday, after returning from Ethiopia to a self-quarantine, I sat in bed and joined our “streaming” church service. This past Wednesday the small group leaders I have the joy of following, arranged for our small group to meet together online. It was weird but so helpful and encouraging. I have been reminded that the church will not bow down to a virus, we bow to Triune God who is sovereign over all things!
So, I just want to challenge you with a few things…
First, pray for those who lead your church. Pastors and elders, ministry leaders, small group leaders. Pray for their families (they make sacrifices we will never know) and the condition of their soul. Pray that they would find their contentment in the Lord alone (and not the strokes ministry might sometimes provide). Get in touch with them! Encourage them to follow the Lord and let them know you are with them!
Second, be faithful with your biblical responsibilities. Be faithful in financial giving! (If you haven’t ever considered electronic giving, this would be a good time!) If you lead a small group or class at church, stay connected to those you have care of. Ask God for creative ways to encourage each other. Ask God to open our eyes to new opportunities and wisdom in how we might respond.
Third, pray for the church in other parts of the world. Pray for mission staff and gospel workers around the world. I spoke with a friend who pastors a church in Uganda this week. They will not be meeting together and they don’t have the technology to stream messages as readily as we do. They will follow the Lord in discipling their people. But, it will look different. It will have to! If the virus has taught us anything, we have been given a powerful illustration of how connected we all are! Most are facing these crazy days without the medical resources we have either.
That’s enough for now. The Lord is at work in all this! I’m convinced this radical rethinking of ministry will bring about new opportunities! In all this the Lord has challenged me to grow in my life as a follower. There are plenty of challenges in leadership. I don’t want to be one of them!