Church leadership problems – choosing authentic leaders

a) Some observations on church leadership:

This article on Church leadership problems is mainly for those having to choose leaders in any church situation, but is also for the congregation and leaders themselves.

Graduation day a graduate walking down the street.
A graduate dressed up for their Graduation day. Are we trusting in qualifications or revival? Church leadership problems.

From my own personal viewpoint I have seen many good Christian leaders and unfortunately many ones that just should not have been chosen for a church leadership position in the first place:

I’ve seen a person chosen for the ministry with a massive ego and have thought ‘no surely not!’ and consequently he fell…
Another who was obviously going off the rails with the ladies and eventually got banned from preaching.
And another whose own confessed motivation was money and holidays!

I believe that the Lord would say of those men, the same as he said to the godless prophets in Jeremiah’s time:

I did not send or appoint them.
They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 23:32

Charles Spurgeon dealing with the subject of being called to the ministry wrote:

That hundreds have missed their way and stumbled against a pulpit (meaning they became a minister) is sorrowfully evident from the fruitless ministries and decaying churches which surround us.
It is a fearful calamity to a man to miss his calling and to the church upon which he imposes himself, his mistake involves an affliction of the most grievous kind…
It is a marvel to me how men continue at ease in preaching year after year without conversions.
Have they no bowels of compassion for others?
No sense of responsibility upon themselves?…
How are they sent of God who bring no men to God?
… the wretched man who occupies a pulpit and never glorifies his God by conversions is a blank, a blot, an eyesore, a mischief.”

C. H. Spurgeon [i]

b) Church leadership problems – Management versus spirituality:

Robert M. M‘Cheyne (1813 – 1843) was a godly evangelical pastor and evangelist with a great love for souls. He wrote:

Remember you (ministers) are God’s sword – His instrument – I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name.
In great measure, according to the purity and perfections of the instrument, will be the success.
It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus.
A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”

Robert Murray M’Cheyne [ii]

I am actually very concerned that there seems to be a lot of churches in the UK where the main priorities are more from the business world rather than being spiritual, Biblical and like Jesus.
There is a lot of talk about finance, buildings and business management.
Our leaders and ministers seem to have become ‘managers’ and not shepherds.
They have become businessmen and women and are not showing a touch from heaven.

In an article (based on churches in the U.S.A.) called; ‘Challenges for Church Leaders Today’ by William Zook, he wrote:

It’s an open secret that many of our leaders are focused on building their kingdom rather than that of Jesus.
…They build their church with the heart of a CEO building a large and successful company.
They have hurt the body of Christ in no small measure…”

William Zook [iii]

When will the church realise that it is not about management skills but it is about our leaders having a fire from heaven, having been chosen by the Lord and having a close walk with him.

…we (ministers) shall be likely to accomplish most when we are in the best spiritual condition; or in other words, we shall usually do our Lord’s work best when our gifts and graces are in good order, and we shall do worst when they are most out of trim.”

C. H. Spurgeon[iv]

Let’s just ask some questions:

  • Are we trusting in the organising power of the church leaders to bring people into the Kingdom of God?
  • Are we believing that the more training we receive the more the church will be blessed?
  • Or the more qualified our leaders are the more powerful the sermons will be?
  • Do we think the more relevant and up to date our services and church buildings become the more people will be converted?

I’m sorry if this all sounds rather judgemental and I know that generalisations can be simplistic, but that is what I feel deep within about Church leadership problems.

I am not anti-training, but the bottom line is that the person being chosen for a leadership position must have a spiritual fire within, must have God’s touch upon their life and the way they live their lives must be worthy .
THEN someone can have training to build upon that foundation.

Charles Spurgeon said:

The first sign of a heavenly call is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work…
there must be an irresistible, overwhelming craving and raging thirst for telling others what God has done to our own souls.
… the word of God must be unto us as a fire in our bones, … that if I did not feel it myself, I must leave the ministry at once”

Charles Spurgeon [v]

c) A survey was carried out by ‘Evangelicals Now’ in 2005 showing some Church leadership problems:

400 men between the ages of 21 and 40 who had recently started out in full-time ministry, were in some sort of training or were at the stage of considering full-time ministry were given statements which they could agree to or disagree:

33% are confused about what constitutes a ‘call’ to full-time Christian work.
73% felt a sense of calling is necessary to enter full-time ministry.
17% didn’t.
59% denied being confused over what constitutes ‘a call’ to full-time Christian work
29% admitted experiencing this confusion. [vi]

The problem is that too many people are being pushed, or they push themselves forward,  into Christian leadership positions without them having a real burning call from the Lord.
THEY want that position because of power, or self worth, or money, but they’ve got no heavenly compulsion.

I remember saying to the person who was in charge of finding another minister for a church;
“The problem with offering a ministerial position with a big salary (stipend) is that it could attract the wrong person – someone who is too motivated by money”.
I felt his demeanour change to being defensive and he answered;
“Oh no! A minister is worth every penny”.
I think his answer was rather naive and was missing the point.

d) Here’s some horrific statistics about church leaders in the U.S.A. on Church leadership problems:

For us Brits these statistics will probably seem to be extreme or exaggerated, but the United Kingdom does tend to follow American trends:

  • 80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • 50% are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Almost 40% polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry. [vii]

Those statistics on Church leadership problems shows up some real severe problems, so the answer is to choose men and woman that the Lord would choose!
But for the majority of churches the leaders are chosen on their qualifications or on their business standing.
That is not the Biblical way.

e) How to choose the right Christian leaders:

Here is the Biblical criteria for choosing Christian leadership:

1) Leaders were chosen because they were FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT and they had SPIRITUAL WISDOM:

Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. …They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 6:3 & 7

2) Christian leaders were chosen because of their CHARACTER:

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.
If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?”

1 Timothy 3:1-5

3) The leaders were chosen because they had a FOUNDATION of FAITH:

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil.”

1 Timothy 3:6

Charles Spurgeon used to turn young men away from joining the Bible College when they had no definite thoughts on the fundamentals of Scripture.
In other words they needed to already have a good grasp of the Bible and it’s doctrine and not be a young convert or a Christian with a lack of knowledge of the Bible, he wrote:

When young fellows say that they have not made up their minds upon theology, they ought to go back to the Sunday School until they have.”

Charles Spurgeon [viii]

4) Christian leaders were chosen because they had a GOOD REPUTATION:

He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

1 Timothy 3:7

Even though the Apostle Paul was wise and had had detailed training by Gamaliel he said:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

1 Corinthians 2:4

And again, writing to another Church:

Brothers loved by God, we know that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.”

1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

Are we putting too much emphasis on academic qualifications and not spiritual gifting and character qualities?

See the article on: What is church doctrine? Go Shake Your World With It!
Or: Christians behaving badly – selfish ambitions

References:
[i] ‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon p. 22 & 29. ISBN 1-56186-100-6
[ii]’On Being a Servant of God’ by Warren W. Wiersbe  p. 39
[iii]Identity Network (opens in a new window)
[iv] ‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon p. 1. ISBN 1-56186-100-6
[v] ‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon p. 23 & 25. ISBN 1-56186-100-6
[vi] Evangelical Alliance (opens in a new window)
[vii] Leadership Resources (opens in a new window)
[viii] ‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon p. 37. ISBN 1-56186-100-6

By Peter Reason

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