Dear Friends, I am in the throes of reflecting about the church. Not the universal church whose leader is Jesus Christ but the local church, where most of us meet together “on any given Sunday”, whose leader is “any given Pastor”. What the issue seems to hinge on is an oft used mantra in the business world:
“Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.” (Warren G. Bennis)
The situation in the local church is very much a trend in society in general and boils down to the timeless “management vs. leadership” dilemma. In the business world, secular as it is, there is longing to be led, inspired and influenced and not just keep the organization running with order and consistency.
Warren G. Bennis, in his book, “On Becoming a Leader” describes his view of the differences between managers and leaders as follows. See if any of these statements bear witness with you in regards to the local church:
* The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
* The manager maintains; the leader develops.
* The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
* The manager accepts reality; the leader investigates it.
* The manager imitates; the leader originates.
What I have found, over the past 20 plus years, is that the local Pastor is usually a “classic good soldier”, who is faithful to the end, relies on and needs control, is focused on maintenance and works hardest developing good followers. The tragedy here is that leaders are not managers and that managers are not leaders YET in the local church we need expressions of both!
John P. Kotter on “What Leaders Really Do” speaks to this important issue:
“Leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Both are necessary for success in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment. Strong leadership with weak management is no better, and is sometimes actually worse, than the reverse.”
I believe this “over-managed and under-led“ conundrum is the reason why so many believers who are very successful in their “secular lives” become like mute sheep when gathered together in their “spiritual lives”. The atmosphere set by the “manager type Pastor” is unfamiliar and often stifling. Sadly, even the structure of church-as-we-know it, eyes forward and sitting in pews, with little to no active contribution by its individual members, keeps alive the managerial paradigm I am writing about. Members not functioning in dynamic spiritual gifts and corralled into rows are easy to over-manage!
Here I think another quote from Warren G. Bennis can help us clarify the issue:
“Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish. Leaders must encourage their [people] to dance to forms of music yet to be heard.”
If you read between the lines, I am suggesting that the “song and dance Pastor” is falling on the side of the manager, while the one creating an environment for other singers and dancers to flourish is the leader.
First apostles, Second prophets
Maybe as you read this you are asking me to be somewhat more prescriptive. “Don’t just tell me the problem, tell me what to do about it!”
If I were to give an opinion on this topic I would ask you to reflect on the church as we see it in the New Testament, for there we will see that the foundation of the church was laid by the apostles and the prophets.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord. (Eph 2:19-21)
And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Cor 12 28)
Well, here then, is my prescription:
1. Start over. Push delete and start over. What do you really have to lose?
2. Gather the saints in small groups where everyone can hear and be heard. Have dessert together and read the Scriptures together! Take your time with this!
3. Only reproduce “as church” what you actually see in the New Testament. Watch out for “sacred cows”. A tremendous teaching on this entitled “Is This Really Church?” by Francis Chan can be found here.
We are talking about changing the status quo – “the state in which things really are”. Before we can diagnose we must first have a clear idea of what a really healthy body looks like. If we were trying to defend marriage as being between one man and one woman we must start with what the Bible makes clear to us about marriage. First find the cure and then we can address the disease!
“Unless we know that there is a target and unless we have a fairly clear idea of its location it is surely nonsense to talk about missing it. ” (Elton Trueblood)
Find your target in the Word of God, brothers and sisters, and don’t be held back by the customs and traditions of men. Without doubt the local church will always be filled with sheep and shepherds. However, the task before us is to have sheep who tell the truth, whether the leaders want to hear it or not.
“Followers who tell the truth and leaders who listen to it are an unbeatable combination.” Warren G. Bennis
May God help us as we struggle to work out our salvation together with fear and trembling.
In the midst of the fiery furnace Jesus shows up. This is not just a lesson for a Sunday School class but is a foreshadowing or “type” of what will happen at the end of this present age, as God the Father transitions human history into the age to come.
Well, dear friends, Jesus will show up for us in the future just as He did in the days of Daniel. When the “little horn” (Dan 7) has become great in the earth and demands that the whole world worship him, Jesus will be with us! Rather than imagine that we are safely “raptured to heaven” before the Great Tribulation (which is a commonly held belief in the church), I believe we are better served to read the many Old and New Testament examples of men and women being saved “in the midst” of persecution and tribulation!
From Daniel to Revelation
Can anyone miss the obvious typology from the image that King Nebuchadnezzar set up in Babylon to the future image that the Antichrist will set up in the temple in Jerusalem before the Last Battle? Nebuchadnezzar erected a 90 foot tall statue of gold on the plains of Dura in Babylon to reaffirm his position in the world as “king of kings” (Dan 2:37) and demanded the whole world worship it!
• King Nebuchadnezzar
Dan 3: 4-6 To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language…. you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.
Rev 13: 15 And it was given to him [false prophet] to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
Of course, those who love God cannot bow and fall down at the feet of a golden statue. Not in the past, not today, not in the future! When King Nebuchadnezzar heard that the the three Hebrew youths, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, would not worship his golden image he angrily ordered that the fiery furnace be heated up 7 times hotter than it ever was and threw in the three boys fully clothed (coats and hats!) and fully alive. They did not know their fate but they knew their God!!
Such a time is coming again for God’s chosen people!
The Fiery Furnace That Will Come at the End of This Age
Can we for a moment flash forward to the Last Days or the end of this age: one will come whose name is synonymous with Babylon and will arise from within the borders of the old Roman Empire, which stretches from London to Babylon. He will arise suddenly and without fanfare for Daniel (7: 8; 8:9) tells us that at the beginning he is a “little horn”.
Nimrod, the founder of Babylon —“The beginning of his kingdom was Babylon…” (Gen 10:10)—is the earliest expression or type in the Bible of the antichrist. All the true forerunners of antichrist have a special connection to Babylon: Nimrod, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus IV, Alexander the Great. Let’s be clear about the antichrist and his many types seen throughout history. Antichrist is not someone who is against Christ rather he seeks to exalt himself to be in the place of Christ!
Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. (2 Thess 2:3-4)
Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods… nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all. Dan 11: 36-37
Anyways, back to King Nebuchadnezzar. In the midst of the fiery furnace Jesus shows up:
He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” (Dan 3:25)
The brave example in the midst of a terrible tyrant of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who “yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God” (Dan 3: 28), mightily impacted King Nebuchadnezzar’s heart and allowed him to bless the one true God! It also brought great blessing and prosperity to the three youths.
“Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.” (Dan 3:30)
What Bible scholars and popular authors are trying to defend as the “Pre-Tribulation rapture position”, I believe will run its course and run aground in the next decade. Many believers will need to rethink and change their beliefs. However the scriptures, as always, are our guide and they will lead us into all the truth. We must do our part, however, and be open to being led and guided by the Holy Spirit.
Yours for the Coming King,
The second qualification which we demand and the apostle [Paul] omits is a readiness to resign all means of living other than that of the sacred ministry. Of this there is not a trace in the apostle’s list of qualifications: there are, on the other hand, many points which suggest the opposite.
The men whom he desired to see ordained were all men who were capable of maintaining themselves and their families without any assistance from the church. They had in fact been doing so, and there is nothing to suggest that they would cease to do so.
They were men of a well-established position in life. They might, of course, cease to earn their living in their accustomed way when they were ordained, but it is hard to imagine that they would necessarily do so; for there is not a hint that it was considered necessary or desirable by the apostle. It would have been quite simple, and to us quite natural, to have put in a clause to the effect that the bishop [elder] must abandon all worldly pursuits and give himself wholly to the care of the church, but there is not a word about it. Such silence rather suggests that the man will continue to live his life as he has been living it and providing for his family as he has been providing for it.
The stipendiary system [paid clergy] grew up in settled churches and is only suitable for some settled churches at some periods: for expansion, for the establishment of new churches, it is the greatest possible hindrance. It binds the church in chains and has compelled us to adopt practices which contradict the very idea of the Church.” (The Case for Voluntary Clergy, 1930)