Are congregations relying on the qualifications of church leaders to revive the churches?
Are business tactics good in church situations?
Are Pastors now just Managers of the business called ‘church’?
What will bring in a true expression of Jesus’ church?
1. 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.
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.Jeremiah 23:32 NIV
They do not benefit these people in the least,’ declares the LORD.”
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.‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon 1
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.”
2. 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.Robert Murray M’Cheyne 2
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.”
I am very concerned that there seem 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.
Many of the leaders and ministers of big churches, seem to have become ‘managers’ and not shepherds.
They have become businessmen and women and consequently, are they 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.‘Challenges for Church Leaders Today’ by Apostle William Zook 3
…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…”
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?
C H Spurgeon wrote:
…we (ministers) shall be likely to accomplish most when we are in the best spiritual condition;‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon 4
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.”
Let’s 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 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…‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon 5
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”
Many may think that this sounds rather judgemental or that generalisations can be too simplistic, but this is my experience and my observations of Church leadership problems and of godly ministries in over 45 years.
3. Church leaders, it’s not just about words or qualifications.
Charles Spurgeon said:
The reason why the Church of God exists is not her ecclesiastical regulations, her organisation, her formularies, her ministers, or her creeds, but the presence of the Lord in the midst of her.”A quote from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon. 6
There was a detrimental shift in the choice and training of Christian leaders.
It was very far-reaching within the English-speaking world from the 1950s onwards, when leadership changed ‘from preachers and pastors to evangelical intellectuals teaching in the academic world.’ 7
In 1977, the academic John Capon was on a quest for a ‘respectable theology’ and he wrote:
The new generation of younger evangelical leaders are primarily academics…‘Evangelicals Tomorrow’ by John Capon. 8
and their contributions at Nottingham showed they are beginning to grapple seriously with issues previously almost beyond evangelical reach.”
Anthony Thiselton, an English Anglican priest, theologian, and academic, urged that ‘Evangelicals should be where the action is, asking such questions as “Do we have the words of Jesus in the gospels?” ‘ 9
Iain H. Murray answers the question, “Do we have the words of Jesus in the gospels?”
The question is akin to that in Genesis 3:1, ‘Did God say?’‘Evangelicalism Divided’ by Iain H. Murray.10
Are we to suppose that God sent his Son to live and die in this world and left us with no dependable revelation of his words?
Or are we to believe that the disciples had to make up words they attributed to Christ because his promise that the Spirit ‘will guide you into all truth’ (John 16:13) was untrue?
Were the apostles without revelation and simply dependent upon their own thoughts and memories?
Close to the argument against inspiration lies unbelief in everything miraculous.”
How could our academic leaders have sunk so low in unbelief?
The verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans spring to mind, ‘their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.’ 11
Even though the Apostle Paul was wise and had thorough 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 NIV
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 NIV
In choosing ministers and clergy the first test in many churches seems to be, what are their qualifications.
Surely we should be looking at the fruit of that person, has their last church grown spiritually closer to God and in numbers?
Unfortunately, a poor leader approaches another church and the last church will not write an honest appraisal of them – in fact, they are glad to see them go!
Therefore this church leader who bears little or no fruit can move easily into another church and hinder God’s work there.
Are we putting too much emphasis on academic qualifications and not on spiritual gifting and quality of character?
4. A survey was carried out by ‘Evangelicals Now’ in 2005 showing some Church leadership problems:
Four hundred 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 with which they could agree 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. 12
The problem is that too many people are being pushed into going to Bible College because there will be more employment options available.
‘Employment’ should not be the driving force, it should be an unstoppable desire to bring people into the Kingdom of God.
Others push themselves forward into Christian leadership positions because they want that position because of power, self-worth, or money, but they’ve got no heavenly compulsion, no burning call from the Lord.
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 very defensive and he answered;
“Oh no! A minister is worth every penny”.
I think that his answer was rather naïve and was missing the point.
5. Here are some horrific statistics on Church leadership problems in the U.S.A.
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. 13
Those statistics on Church leadership problems show some real severe problems, so the answer is to choose men and women 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.
6. How to choose the right Christian leaders:
Here are the Biblical criteria for choosing Christian leadership:
a) 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. …Acts 6:3 & 7 NIV
They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”
b) 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,1 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV
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?”
c) 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 NIV
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 its doctrine and not be young converts 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.”‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon 14
(A full movie of Charles Spurgeon’s life is included near the bottom of this page).
d) 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 NIV
7. Here is the full movie of Charles Spurgeon’s life:
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References and credits – open in new tabs:
‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon p. 22 & 29. ISBN 1-56186-100-6 ↩
‘On Being a Servant of God’ by Warren W. Wiersbe p. 39 ↩
‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon p. 1. ISBN 1-56186-100-6 ↩
‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon p. 23 & 25. ISBN 1-56186-100-6 ↩
Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 10, p. 163. ↩
‘Evangelicalism Divided. A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000’ by Iain H. Murray. The Banner of Truth Trust. p.173 ↩
‘Evangelicals Tomorrow: A popular report of Nottingham 77, the National Evangelical Anglican Congress’ by John Capon. p. 180. ↩
‘Evangelicals Tomorrow: A popular report of Nottingham 77, the National Evangelical Anglican Congress’ by John Capon. p. 53. ↩
‘Evangelicalism Divided. A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000’ by Iain H. Murray. The Banner of Truth Trust. p.201 ↩
Romans 1:21-22 NIV ↩
‘Lectures to My Students Unabridged’ by C. H. Spurgeon p. 37. ISBN 1-56186-100-6 ↩