Imbalance can come into our families, companies and churches when two problems arise: leaders do not lead and supporters do not follow. Sometimes the leaders abdicate their responsibilities, they get lazy, they cast no vision or they lead in the wrong direction. Sometimes the supporters wants to lead, sometimes they forget the vision, drop out or lead a coup d’etat.
All teams must have visionaries: those who sees the end, the goal, the purpose, and help cast a big picture idea of where the group is going. All teams must also have logicians: those who catch the vision and formulate the step-by-step plan of how to achieve those goals. And of course, all teams must have those who put this plan into action. Those who get down and dirty and find their active role in the big picture and the day-to-day of making it happen.
Sometimes visionaries are individuals, sometimes they are small groups of people, and sometimes (in church life) they are committees! But God has ordained that the church have shepherds and elders who are responsible for the spiritual well being and oversight of us, their congregations.
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
– 1 Peter 5.1-3
They are given a heavy responsibility: to guide us in the paths of righteousness, discipline us when we veer off course with eagerness and joy and as good examples. And we are exhorted to submit to their leadership:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
– Heb 13.17
They will stand before God and give an account for us. For me. For you. They have been given the responsibility to direct us and when we veer off course they have a level of responsibility before God! And because of this high level of spiritual responsibility that leaders have within the church over our souls and before God, James warns:
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.
– James 3.1
They will be judged according to the level of responsibility entrusted to them for us, and for their stewardship of the Church.
So if we are supposed to submit to their leadership and entrust that God has placed them in authority over us to help us fulfill the vision of the Church, what is that vision and purpose? Jesus gave it to us clearly and concisely:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
– Matt 28.18-20
The rest of the Scriptures give us more detail on what exactly that looks like: preaching the Gospel (2 Tim 4.2), caring for the widows and orphans (James 1.27), caring for the poor (Matt 25), loving your enemy and suffering the offense (Rom 12), and caring for the needs of the church body (James 2, 1 John 3). God has given us leaders to both hold us accountable in righteousness and also to cast the vision for how to reach the world and our communities and make disciples. They apply this great commission to us and our situations.
I heard the analogy recently that a golfer, standing in four open acres of grass, can appear to be hitting balls with precision, ease and success. Without the presence of a flag he can deceive himself all day long that he is a wonderful golfer. But when a flag – a goal – is added, his skills are revealed and he can begin bettering himself.
Are you hitting balls into an open field? Or are you actively engaged in the mission and purpose of your church? Do you cling to your own tradition and habit that has lost effect? Or do you surrender yourself and your energies to the ministries that are impacting the kingdom and pushing your church on to the completion of her goal, to make disciples of all nations? Do you know the vision and mission of your church? Let’s get on board, and let it be said of us as it was of Israel in Judges 5.2:
“That the leaders led in Israel,
That the people volunteered,
Bless the Lord!”