Monthly Archives: July 2013
Renewal of Lay Leadership
We are often concerned about the pastors having too much authority, so we often rotate them around in the various congregations. But how about the lay leadership? Though there may be elections almost every year. It’s interesting to note that the same old people often get elected again and again. This is a worrying phenomenon.
Firstly, this usually means that the laity having greater authority than the clergy. It is therefore hard to get things done in church. The church is often trapped to please everyone more than to fulfill the mission of God. The laity would usually drive their own projects in their own directions rather than being aligned to a common vision.
Secondly, this means new leaders are not coming up fast enough. Since the pastors do not have much authority, they end up doing all the ‘coordination’ work in church, leaving them not much time to raise new leaders. Many a times, the pastors do not have a free hand to disciple the people in church. The lay leaders may also hog onto their positions and do little to raise up new leaders too. As such, year after year, the same people are being elected again and again.
Thirdly, there is likely an imbalance of power in church. It is interesting to note that most of the lay leaders in church are in the upper class. They are not just the richer ones in church, they also hold high positions in their workplace as well. Though this is not necessarily bad, but the pastors usually do not dare to meddle too much regarding the lives of these people. As such, money and status can speak louder than God in this situation. As these people are usually in the management positions, they often bring in a lot of management techniques into the church. We often see how these churches are being measured by individual performance and efficiency rather than character and faithfulness. On the other hand, the middle and lower income groups are hardly in the management level of the church. As such, the formation of church strategy and policy may not be sensitive to the needs of these people.
Perhaps it is time we evaluate our church. Some studies have shown that we are attracting more white-collar workers than blue-collar workers in church. Why is this so? Are we trying to build an upper class faith? It is time to see who are we discipling. We should disciple people from various income groups so that we can better represent the church. Have a system to rotate the lay leadership so that there is new influx of younger leaders. Do not let the same lay leaders hog on the power and authority of the church. Make sure there is a good spread of people in the management of the church. As a body of Christ, we can learn from all walks of life.
Discipleship of Leadership
The challenge we face in church today is not just a lack of discipleship of the believers in church, but a lack of discipleship in the leadership as well. Though leaders are the most important people forming the core of the church, they are seldom discipled. One of the most obvious reason is that they have no time to be discipled because they are serving in so many areas in the church. They have so many meetings to attend. Some of them are even facing burn out. Where can they find time for discipleship? Most of the time, they have to use the Bible to feed others, but hardly do they have time to let others feed them.
Another issue is regarding who to disciple them? The obvious answer may be the pastor but this does not happen most of all the time. Besides the fact that the pastor has even more meetings and activities to attend, a more tricky problem is that he may not have the authority to do so. For some churches, the pastor is employed by the church, as such the pastor is at the mercy of the congregation. The elders who are usually lay leaders have more say than the pastor. The pastor can hardly comment on the church. They just act upon the directions from the elders or the board. Hopefully they have a godly group of elders who can put aside their own agendas. If not, the church will just keep debating and voting on every issues based on their human minds rather than discernment from the Spirit. It would be tough to have these elders placed under a discipleship program. Most of them would just hang on to their power in church. Sometimes there are even factions and power struggle.
Another common problem is rotational leadership. Pastors are usually given four to six years terms in a local church before they are transferred to another church. Though it meant well not to let the pastor hog on to his power to build up his own “kingdom”, it also means that the pastor is not close to the people as compared to the lay leaders. As such, the power and authority of the church still lies with the lay leaders. The lay leaders often think that they know the church better than the pastor and therefore think that they have more say about the congregation and have lots of expectations on the pastor. Yet the pastor cannot do much besides the usual pastoral duties on Sunday because the members are under the control of the laity. These lay leaders are also the chairman for various committees in church, and this makes it even more difficult for the pastor to direct the committees. In many cases, the pastor is accused for not doing enough in each area of ministry, where in the first place they have not allowed the pastor to direct their committees.
Then what about the pastors themselves? Who are to disciple them? Of course, the senior pastor can disciple the younger generation of pastors provided that he has the time and put emphasis on the work of discipleship. However, there are many pastors who like to hold on to the power rather than delegate their power. While they know they should train up the younger generation, they are fearful that the next generation would destroy what they have built up. As such, they cannot let go of the church and the young pastors cannot rise up to take the helm. While the main pastor may be very successful and popular, the younger generation of pastors are being suppressed in leadership. These churches do run a high risk because they are built on the faith and charisma of the senior pastors. If the next generation of pastors are not given the opportunity to rise up, the future of the church would be at stake.
There are no easy solutions for the issues above. It would be easier if we all are humble enough to admit that we need to be discipled. However, this is usually not the case. Not all pastors, elders or deacons like to be discipled. They have so many things on their hands. I must say that these leaders are usually very capable. They are very good at getting things done and organising activities. But the downside is that they often neglect the building of their spirituality and character. What they need is to build in time for peer discipleship. Rather than spending so much time in meetings, allocate time to share about what God is doing in their lives and what they are learning from God. It may also help if each has a buddy where there can be more sharing and accountability. It is a time we put aside our titles and designations just to be our brothers’ keepers. It will be good if we are able to do this for different levels of leadership. Remember, the higher we go, the greater is the need for discipleship. Jesus did not get caught up in meetings, but He spent His time discipling people, especially the leaders-to-be. Spiritual leaders are not there just to get things done, they are the ones leading the way in spiritual formation too. If we are serious in growing the kingdom of God and building successions of leaders, we should start discipling the leaders soon.
The ‘Me’ Gospel
We often share that Jesus would die for us even if we were the only person on earth. No doubt, Jesus would surely die for us. But we must be careful not to emphasize too much on ‘ME’. When sharing the Gospel, we often stress how much God love the person. We tell the person that God would bless him and help him. We portray the meaning that Jesus would solve every problem and our lives would get easier. But do these form an accurate picture of the Gospel? Sometimes we leave out mentioning the need for repentance and the Lordship of Jesus so that it is easier for the person to accept the Gospel. We try to paint a nice picture so that people can accept Jesus more easily. However, we run the risk of not preaching the Gospel correctly.
While Jesus is prepared to die for any person, we must bear in mind that Jesus died for the whole world. God’s love is universal and directed towards every person on this earth, including those who have yet know Him. Therefore, we must be careful not to make the person think that the whole world revolve around him. If not, the person would still be self-centred and would demand people to love him and give him whatever he demands. We see many of these cases happening in churches today. Though they claim to be Christians, they still live for themselves rather than God. They expect others to pamper them according to their demands. When these demands are not met, they criticize the church and its leaders.
Jesus never said that He would solve all our problems. He never said that our lives would be easier. In fact, we have to deny ourselves, carry our cross and follow Him. But have we share the Gospel correctly? Or we try to cover up some facts?
The problem here may probably be rectified by proper follow-up. It would be good if we are able to explain the Gospel to the believers again so that they grasp the true essence of the Gospel. But this is not enough. As suggested earlier, this problem can probably be traced back to the way we share the Gospel. Perhaps, with the emphasis on individual rights and the urgency for church growth, we have not only watered down the Gospel, we have also emphasised too much on the individual. As such, the person become more important than God.
While bringing people to Christ, let us make sure that they have a correct understanding of the Gospel. Let us not rush to make people say the sinner’s prayer too easily. It is always worthwhile to invest more time to make sure a person knows what he is believing. Well, church growth may be slower, but we would have a more committed group of believers who live their lives to glorify God.