Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Leadership and Submission

This is Part five of a series on Godly Leadership.

Understanding that (1) Leaders are not perfect and (2) Leaders are assigned by the authority of God, we must be in submission to God’s leaders – to a reasonable extent.

We have a problem in the Western Church. We are fixated on what has been called the three B’s of the Western Church. These are:

  1. Budgets

  2. Buildings

  3. Butts in the pews.

We tend to place way too much importance on these things. They give us a false sense of importance. Indeed, in the Southern Baptist Convention, we tend to elect presidents on factors similar to these three B’s. Whoever has the biggest is considered prime for inclusion in the running.

Budgets: God has blessed with money, so what can we spend it on to make ourselves look like we are doing the right things for God?

Buildings: New building projects give us something to sell to congregations, and potential members, and make us look like we have a growing church.

Butts in the pews: One reason too many churches don’t do church discipline is because we vie to have churches filled with people. Too many churches are content to allow non-Christians on the rolls for this reason. They may not think of it in this way, but having lax membership qualifications invariably lets in more people who do not have true faith in God.

The thing is that these things are looked at in the Western culture as being vitally important to a church fellowship. I served on the church council in the last church I was in. (It is roughly equivalent to the deacon board of most Baptist churches.) The Finance Committee had more members on it than the Social Ministry and Evangelism Committees combined. Sadly, the congregation in general couldn’t tell the difference between evangelism and social ministry. I was selected to chair the Evangelism Committee and met with the one other person who showed up for the initial meeting of my chairmanship. By the end of my chairmanship, I had several people involved in evangelistic outreaches. I had created the church’s first welcome center, small as it was, with brochures for visitors, and created a regular fellowship time where people could learn of evangelistic outreaches to get involved with. After I left, it all but disintegrated. More important to people were the three B’s. Today, due to this fixation as well as some problems with that particular denomination, the church is all but dead. There are virtually no more youth or even young adults.

I was a leader in that church for a short time, but most of the other leaders were there long before me and many are still there leading a dead church. In their prime, those leaders were the wealthiest in the church. They assumed that the budget they created with their large contributions gave them the right to claim leadership over all things in the church. They set aside hundreds of thousands for improving the pipe organ, renovating the Fellowship Hall and Kitchen, renovating the old Scout Hut into a new meeting room. The most of a budget that I could muster from them for the Evangelism Committee was about fifteen hundred dollars one year.

I suspect that it is a similar case for many dead or dying churches.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

What things will be added? According to the context, material things will be added. Don’t be fooled, however. Some may be tempted to say that our final goal is the material things.

But I’ve already said that I’m not goal oriented. The process is to seek the Kingdom of God and not worry about material things. That’s what’s important here. The passage acknowledges that we need material things. But their proper place is secondary to the process of seeking the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is permanent. Material things are perishable as are most of our considerations regarding Budgets, Buildings and Butts in the pews.

So what are we to do when our leaders lead us to consider the three B’s first? As long as they remain faithful to God, submit to them.

Now it can be argued that pursuing the three B’s is not being faithful to God. Humbly submit your concerns to the leadership and follow their lead. They have been placed in authority over you as all imperfect leaders are. But where they lead you to go against the important things of God, you must be first obedient to God. This is the primary reason I’m not at my former church anymore.

So, understanding that leaders aren’t perfect, but that their authority comes from God, and we are called to be in submission to the authorities that govern us, willingly submit to them and do not try to usurp their authority.

Trying to usurp authority engenders distrust. Submitting to authority engenders trust and your leaders will be more inclined to lend you their ear and consider your plea to a more faithful leadership.

Next article: Theological Tension on Ministerial Leadership

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