I’ve been troubled lately. The kind of troubled I can’t seem to shake and which keeps me looking to God to answer my questions and to carry the burden I feel igniting deep within me.
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We live in a world inundated with voices and people who claim Jesus as their saviour and yet they seem to be living a life utterly contrary to what God’s Word teaches. The “you do you” (I’ve used that in specific contexts) and the “Jesus loves me no matter what I choose to do” and the “this is my truth” is a prevailing theme running wild on media outlets. We hear famous voices using their platforms to proclaim truth and new value systems, truth and systems that if you don’t adhere to, you’re shamed and called a bigot. And as a pastor, I’m asking myself what it means to show up and pastor – as God wills – in today’s Church.
You see I think Jesus teaches us that leadership – godly leadership – can be unpopular and counter-cultural. Jesus was and still is in many ways, unpopular. And the ironic thing about his unpopularity is that it was among his own. His own had changed the rules and made it their way. I don’t want to harshly criticize them because I’m wondering if the same thing may have happened to us, the Church, and Holy Spirit is making us aware of it.
I think the shepherds (AKA leaders or elders) of God’s people are required to lead God’s people with God’s truth and it’s not our responsibility to choose obedience for others. We must say what God wants to be announced! We must, like Ezra, “Get up, for it is [our] duty to tell the people how to proceed in setting things straight.” (Ezr 10:4a) Yes, I pulled that Ezra text out of its context, but I did so because it’s a text the Spirit has quickened to my own heart in this season. And to be honest, I’m not exactly sure how that is going to work itself out in my life, but I’m aware of the nudge.
Once again I’m feeling the deep draw to study God’s Word, to pray, and to not minimize the need to teach and speak from the Bible.
Why? Because what if people are actually wandering and getting lost because we’ve lost our ability to rightly divide the Word of God? What if we’ve made it too much about numbers and not enough about proclamation of God’s truth? What if we’ve remained silent because we were afraid of being unpopular? What if in our attempts to be relevant we’ve actually become irrelevant? What if the Church were actually going to go through refinement and become smaller, not larger? What if we actually read a whole Epistle as the message, not merely a few verses? I have a lot of what-if questions rolling around these days in my head.
It’s hard, I get it, to stand up in front of people or to sit in their midst and say this is what the Bible teaches. I understand that it can be easier to choose comfort over pain, to choose a level path over a steep climb, to choose easy over hard, to choose to be popular and well-liked over having times of being unpopular.
If you’re called to lead in the Church, you’re invited to do hard. You can’t escape hard. You’re called to put the people of God first over yourself. You’re called to not only feed and water the people, but you’re also invited to take care of the weak, to tend the sick, to keep an eye on those wandering, to be an example, and to search for the lost, according to God’s will. (Ezk 34: 1-10; 1 Peter 5:1-14)
And what happens to those appointed as leaders who don’t lead God’s ways? Well, I think Ezekial 34 paints a pretty graphic picture. Thank God, God still shows up for his people, despite our leadership failures. But here’s the thing that struck me from the Ezekial passage – God considered those who didn’t shepherd God’s way, enemies, and they would be held responsible for what had happened to God’s people.
But, if we do it God’s way – which at times, perhaps for extended periods, includes suffering, being unpopular, mocked and persecuted – then “when the Great Shepherd appears [aka Jesus], you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honour.” (1 Peter 5.4)
I feel a stirring deep within that Jesus just might be asking me as a pastor to let go of a whole lot of things so that I might lead God’s way, in God’s power, for God’s glory, and for God’s people.
Do you sense God reminding you of the responsibility of leadership in the Church? I’d welcome your thoughts or questions.
Have an amazing day