Isn’t it wonderful to know that God, in His great care to provide all that is necessary for His people to know Him and live fruitfully (2 Peter 1:3-4), has provided leadership through pastors and Lay Leaders (Ephesians 4:11-13)?
It is not an easy charge, that of being the spiritual pacesetter for a family of Believers, responsible for holding forth a spiritual standard towards which our people strive, but it is a wonderful one.
This standard for spiritual life and fruitfulness doesn’t really have so much to do with a high level of activity for the sake of activity. Nor is it related to the size of one’s congregation. And it certainly has nothing to do with impressive facilities or with the number of prestigious persons that come to “my” church.
Actually, when one has been called as a leader in one’s church (whether clergy or laity), one has been granted a great privilege in being a vehicle through whom God’s grace and power might reach the earth. Like a bolt of lightning streaking down from the sky to the up-stretched prong of a lightning rod, God’s presence and love look for hearts eager to yield to His will, and is ready to empower their walk with Him with evidence of His love and strength.
Yet, there are serious temptations for church leaders. In our zeal to see the realm of God’s grace and glory spill out from our lives into the hearts and minds of others with whom we interact, we can begin to enjoy too much the personal benefits that we associate with our positions of influence.
I specifically mean those temptations that can beset a pastor, teacher, worship leader or any other person of influence (formally or informally) when we start to forget to Whom the church actually belongs. For instance, if one has been in a church family for a long time, he or she may think that the church belongs to him personally. Or, just as bad, perhaps a pastor feels that he is the CEO of a company and not the steward of a body of God’s children.
No, the church is God’s flock and it belongs solely to the Great Shepherd (Matthew 16:18). We are simply instruments in His hand to affect His loving leadership in His church. It is therefore a great tragedy when a church leader forgets that God was on the scene before his or her arrival and was already at work shaping that family of Believers. Perhaps it is an ego trip for leaders when they discount God’s ability to work in and speak through others in the church. Maybe they like the power. Perhaps they enjoy just a bit too much the material perks or feelings of being “important”.
Whatever form it may take, the attempt to use God to profit oneself is dangerous and insulting to the Lord. It not only throws “cold water,” so to speak, on one’s own relationship with God, it taints one’s potential fruitfulness in the spiritual realm, thereby hurting others in the process. And God simply doesn’t like “being used.” Nor does He like His people being used.
“… Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. ‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because My sheep have become a prey, and My sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because My shepherds have not searched for My sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue My sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them” (Ezekiel 34:2b-10 ESV).
I am reminded, as I read passages like this, that leaders in the church (whether pastors, elders, deacons, teachers, worship leaders, youth ministers and so on) are accountable to the Holy One for the nature of their leadership in the church. Perhaps we sometimes neglect the call to spiritually shepherd God’s people in lieu of successfully building an organization or program.
Therefore, let us guard our hearts, brethren. Let us examine our motives AND our methods daily. May we continually hold them up to the light of the Scripture of God and ask Him in our prayer closets how He might be better pleased with the service that we render Him. We are likely to find that it will have a lot more to do with our hearts than with our hands: from our hands and mouths come the fruit of our heart’s attitudes, but it is the heart that is always the starting point with God.
So let us guard ourselves from trying to use God’s grace for material benefit (2 Kings 5:15-27), prestige (Matthew 6:1-6; 3 John 9-10), and power (Acts 8:14-24). And may we take great care that we do not seek our own glory but His and His alone.
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.