The Leadership Imperative

Last night was our house church meeting. It's a night I normally look forward to, but this time the events of the evening left me deeply disturbed. What happened raised in my mind questions of what things characterize Christians. How are Christians - the people of God - different?

There was some discussion about living as a Christian - mostly things Christians do not do. And it's evident, I think, that socially and personally destructive practices should have no place in the life of God's people.

But I have been concerned that "Christians" very often define themselves by what they do not do, or do not believe. The world sees Christians as people who are against everything fun, interesting, or pleasurable. Christians often come across as colorless, bland and boring people who have little or nothing positive to say about anything.

What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to say we have found The Truth? That we are called out by God? That we represent the one true and living God? Or are we all fooling ourselves?

Does being a "nice guy" reflect the life of Jesus? Does it honor him?

Last night, a woman in the group became ill. She was clearly not doing well, and said so. The response? The group leader took his guitar and started one of the three requisite songs. Doing church as usual. Nobody so much as blinked about this woman sitting in our midst, getting worse.

James wrote that if anyone is ill, he or she should call the elders for prayer, and their prayer would be effective in healing. Two elders were in the group. Neither said a word or offered to pray.

While others were singing, I was praying, and felt that God was telling me to go pray for the woman. To lay my hands on her and ask God to heal her. I didn't want to be disruptive, but the sense would not go away. So I prayed directly: "God, do you want me to go pray for her, now?" Literally as I prayed that, the woman said to the group, "I'm really not feeling well. Would you pray for me?"

Nobody moved.

So I stood and went over to her, expecting someone to join me.

Nobody moved.

The two elders did not move.

I put my hand on her head and prayed, then went and sat back down. I was very frustrated and disappointed.

So the question comes: What is it about this group that makes it Christian? I'm not singling them out as a bad example. I'm asking about them because I'm part of them, and because they are typical of Christian groups. So what is it that makes the group Christian?

We come together every week, share a very good meal, sing three songs, discuss the week's sermon text, and have a prayer time that is more discussion of the prayer request than actual prayer. Very predictable. Sound familiar? You might have a similar pattern, except I can assure you we have better meals.

But what makes us a Christian group? Is it ascribing to some theological beliefs? Is it actions? Or perhaps, both beliefs and action? Can we legitimately claim to be the people of God, the community of faith, if we sit around, doing nothing, seldom acting, even when there is an evident need for action?

What did James mean when he said faith without works is dead? And what did Jesus mean when he said he was sending us just as the Father sent him? And what did Paul mean when he said we are the officially designated representatives - ambassadors - of Jesus?

Certainly, sitting around, doing nothing, when someone is sick and asks for prayer won't make it.

Do we wonder why evangelical Christians have little respect and no credibility in the world? That sort of don't-bother-me attitude deserves no respect.

But how does this come about? The answer is simple: poor leadership. Every group reflects its leaders. There were two elders present, charged with leading the group. Neither did anything.

This is a sign of a church that is unfaithful to the clear teaching of the Bible, and is in an important sense a failed church. Such a church has missed the primary charge from Jesus to make disciples, and out of that fails to act as the people of God. They fail to understand being a people of the resurrection, a people of the new creation, and they lose their reason for being.

All from bad leadership.

By the way, the woman who was ill? God healed her.

7 Comments

I am a man who has only just started to study Theology through Tabor college as an external student. Tabor Adelaide (Australia) is where I study from. I have a deep love of GOD and have done so all my life as far back as I can remember.
But I am very put off CHURCHES. Even the evangelical churches of which I was once going to in Hobart (I now live in a different state). Where I live now I went to a nice church but am still put off. I agree about people not walking the walk. I see it all the time. I am not perfect obviously but I endevour to be my best as a GOD LOVING MAN. Too many people like to be SEEN TO BE GOING TO CHURCH as it is a good points grabber in society. I could never find what I am looking for in my spiritual walk. This is why I am doing Theology myself to learn the REAL THING as such. Not another's interpretation from his mouth while taking your money as well and living the high life whilst others struggle believing that by giving they will receive back ten fold, because the preacher said so. Both sides are TAKE, TAKE, TAKE. I know that raises questions too.
I do understand what you say sir. I endevour to live, learn and to use in my life what I learn and I am a NEVER SEEN GOING TO CHURCH person. Church is fine but it is out in the world where it all counts. Jesus did all his work in the world. His followers did their work in the world. Actions do speak louder than words. I don't declare being Christian. That is a big put off to people. I am a behind the sceens man.
I do associate with other Christians (BIKERS. As I am a biker).
I am now a student of Theology and love it. I had been hearing the call for ten years but only recently did something about it. I serve GOD in my own different way. It may be more STEALTH than in ones face. But it works and people respond well without knowing they have been touched by GOD. It gets the ball rolling to a better life for people. This is what I aim to acheive. At the same time not neglecting myself. I keep myself diciplined otherwise how can I help anyone else?
GOD BLESS;
Ian, from Sale, Gippsland, Victoria, Australia.

Ian,

Thanks for your very interesting comments. I certainly understand your frustration with local churches. I have shared that too often.

I thank God for your love and fervor for Jesus. I enjoy hearing of your passion. I would point out, however, a couple things that I have found important in my life.

First, I have spent a lot of time studying theology. I have enjoyed it and have no regrets. However, much of what is taught as theology helps people learn about God, but not know God. Too much of it is an intellectual exercise, and not about a relationship -- intimacy -- with the one who loves us beyond our comprehension. So, don't stop studying. Never. But recognize that the goal is not knowledge for itself, but knowledge of one we seek to know as well as is possible.

Second, despite the faults and problems associated with many -- not all -- local churches, we cannot escape that God has chosen the local church as his primary channel of grace to the world. We can leave the local church and be Lone Rangers, and we might feel good about not associating with those we think are unfaithful, but the truth is, when we do that, we are by that very action being unfaithful, and making it impossible for us to fulfill God's purpose for us as his people. Good deeds and good words should characterize our lives as followers of Jesus. However, it's not primarily about good deeds. It's about Jesus, and about making disciples, people who are committed to following him. We can't do that alone.

I'll stop here, and not make this any longer. I welcome further dialog.

Larry

Where to begin?

Believe it or not, the gift of public prayer is not universal. Laying hands on the sick is a gift that is also not for everyone.

In a small church, the gifts are found among the whole congregation.

The person assigned with leading the church may be a good speaker, or a knowledgeable scholar of Scripture, but may be lousy at dealing with teenagers.

Our job as congregants is to fill in the gaps.

Larry, those you thought should have joined you in prayer may have been going through their own issues.

You were called to notice the need, and responded. The woman was healed. By God. No thanks to the rest of the church. As it should be.

In a congregation of any number of people, many things are happening at the same time, that most people don't even realize. You see what you need to see. Yes, you heard the woman ask for prayer. I betcha some people did not even hear her. There are some request they hear that you don't. As it should be.

Sometimes we ask our leaders to be all things to all people, to take our responsibilities away from us.

I like small, house churches precisely because they require ACTIVE participation by all congregants.

While also allowing some congregants not to move a finger.

Hi Ricardo,

Long time. Nice to hear from you again.

I wonder about your statement about the "gift" of public prayer. How do you support the concept of prayer, whether public prayer or combined with laying on of hands, as some sort of selectively given gift? Is there some sort of biblical basis for that?

It seems to me that prayer is simply talking with my Father. It's at the same time no big deal and a very big deal. So what's the issue with talking to my Father in the presence of others? Further, considering a hierarchy of activities, what could be more important than interceding for a sister (or brother) who is in need?

In any meeting, certain things take place. In the meeting I referenced, activities included a meal, three songs, a prayer, a group discussion of the sermon text from the previous Sunday, prayer requests and then prayer. I cannot understand that a person's request for prayer because of illness is less important that singing and a group discussion. "I feel terrible. Please pray for me." "Oops, sorry. You'll have to wait until we get to prayer time." Ludicrous.

You and I differ substantially on the nature of the church. I see it as an organic entity, where every part is affected and cares for the other parts. There are no discrete entities, and nobody rejoices or suffers alone. But when someone asks for prayer and is ignored, we put that person in the place of suffering alone.

thanks Larry for your reply. I agree that Theology is a very interlectuall thing. In my life I have hardly had any interlectuall stimuliss. I have very much avoided that. It's about time I I learnt to use my interlect more. But I really am a DOING MAN. I understand the need for fellowship. Maybe I just haven't found the right church yet. I just spent the weekend with a friend of mine who is very dedicated in his Christian walk. We watched some DVD's of Mark Finley(?) and his Discovery series of seminars he did in Melbourne (date I am not sure of). We would also discuss topics as well. I like the interlectual discussion but find it hard with one as clossed minded as my friend. It is HIS WAY OR NO WAY. This is also what I have come accross in churches. I am still seeking and crave open minded discussion. I like what I have read here already and I truly respect your reply to me. You don't push your way but have your point of view. The other two have their point of view. This is good. This is not DEBATE but discussion.
As for `lone ranger`, I don't set out to be a lone ranger. I do my bit to help where I can. I know churches are great for alot of people who are seeking something more in their lives. Your reply has me thinking alot. I am very happy with that.

The other two replies above are interesting as well.I can see each individual person has a comfort zone where they feel better in praying or singing or prais and worship. Maybe the lady was not heard. I wasn't there to be able to say. The point was she called for help and prayer but one one responded. My way of praying is not so much the laying of hands. And I certainly wouldn't have been the first to get up either as I am very uncomfortable in doing that. But maybe I would have got up and asked someone else to do so too. I have been with others before laying hands and praying.

My way to pray is more so talking to GOD like a mate who is next to me. I see prayer as communication with GOD. I talk to GOD about everything. Good times, concerns, problems, about things I like and about how much I love GOD's work on this Earth. I thank GOD for replying to me and for things that go right. And for problems sloved. The way people pray including when laying hands on someone is a form of prayer I can't get with. I don't know how to do it and I am not worried about doing it. We have our ways. I respect people who pray that way. To decribe the way is hard without being there in person. But it is not the way I do it as I talk to a MATE not use a style of speach that sounds like a prayer as such. We all have our ways. I like that very much.

I am a bit off the beaten track here but some things caught my eye in the replies above.

GOD BLESS ALL and Take care.
Ian.....(Australia)

Ian,

Glad you came back. A couple thoughts:

Theology, as it's usually thought of, is indeed intellectual. However, that's not the whole picture. There are two other important considerations, I think. One is that we have been talking about academic theology, only. But theology is at its core nothing more than thinking carefully about God. And good theology -- on any level -- always leads to a more intimate knowledge and relationship with God. Everything else is secondary. There is an important way in which we all are or should be theologians: Everyone needs to consider who God is and what that demands from us. That should involve careful thought, since our concept of God is one of the most important shaping factors in life.

I'm glad you're a "doing man." So am I. But it's important to remember, I think, Paul's words about people who have zeal without knowledge. They act swiftly and do a lot, often claiming to be acting in the name of God, but don't know the God they claim. They have no knowledge. I think the answer is in one word: balance.

On the matter of laying on hands and praying for people, I would encourage you to be open and consider this carefully. Prayer, of course, is a son or daughter talking with Dad. Note, it's talking with Dad, not only talking to Dad. That means also listening. There are times when I encounter someone who needs something from my Dad, and I want to bring that person to Dad so he can help. That's intercessory prayer, praying for others. And when I am present with someone who I pray for, touching that person creates a connection that often has the effect of activating faith. The power of touch is great and important. You can see occasions in Scripture when people who needed something -- usually healing -- received what they needed simply by touching Jesus or an apostle. Touch is powerful, and not to be overlooked.

So, I guess that's enough for now. Blessings on you.

G'day Larry;
Thanks for your reply. I totaly agree with you. Touching is very important. It is healing to touch as well as praying. I know as humans we need touch and for people who feel down and even depressed having a touching hand can make all the difference in the world along with some kind words and/or prayer.

I have walked the Christian walk all my life. About 10 years ago a word popped into my head. I like that word very much and had heard it somewhere before. The word was THEOLOGY. I even asked my then wife what it meant. She being born again and very radical with her beliefs could not answer me. I left it alone for a while. But still that word kept at me. I finaly looked up what it meant. But I had no computer access so only used the dictionary. The explination was not a very good one but set me in a direction I am on now. It mentioned basicly Theology was Christian studies and bible studies. I got more into some bible studies and did a short missions course through the church I went to. I then forgot about that wonderful word again.

A few years later the word hit me again. My facination grew again. This time I asked a Pastor what it meant. He told me it is basicly the study of GOD. But I became disillusioned with that church and never bothered with Theology. 1 year later while visiting my ex wife and my daughter, Theology was on my mind again even stronger. I looked into courses this time. But the amount of money to be paid out and no Government fee help put me right off. But Theology stayed with me and hardly mover from my mind. Every day it was there.

2 years later I looked into courses again and found the there is now fee help and many forms of Christion study in areas I love. But to get an enrolment into a course ON CAMPUS at the nearest city to me was easy but for one big problem. I couldn't get accomadation. I had also wanted to do other studies other than theology. But Adelaide Campus of Tabor College has an external studies `moodle`. I enrolled through Adelaide and I was granted fee help and I am doing Theology at last.

Study, expecially external study, it more interlectual than practical. I know full well one can know the know and not do the do. I have always been the type of man to learn my lessons and USE IT IN MY LIFE. Other wise, what was the point of learning lifes lessons in the first place? As too with this course of study. I am learning but I use what I learn in my life and endevour to be a better Christian.

As you may know, what really made me go to study of Theology was my un-happiness with churches today. GOD did have alot to do with my decision though. I have a problem. GOD says, "DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT." HE has been calling me to get to know HIM allot better. Theology will do this. But will do alot more. Some thing it will do are not known to me as yet but I know there is more to come in my life.

I am a doing man but as you wrote, there needs to be a ballance. I have not had much interlectual stimulus in my life. I was the dud kid at school. I am learning more than just Theology in my studies. I am finaly getting my brain to work and I can and will at last put both practical and interlectual together.
Take care mate and GOD BLESS..... Ian.....

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  • Ian McDonald said:
      G'day Larry; Thanks for your reply. I totaly agree with you. Touching ...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Ian, Glad you came back. A couple thoughts: Theology, as it's usuall...
  • Ian McDonald said:
      thanks Larry for your reply. I agree that Theology is a very interlect...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Hi Ricardo, Long time. Nice to hear from you again. I wonder about ...
  • Ricardo said:
      Where to begin? Believe it or not, the gift of public prayer is not u...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Ian, Thanks for your very interesting comments. I certainly understan...
  • Ian McDonald said:
      I am a man who has only just started to study Theology through Tabor c...

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