We need leaders. We need people who can lead the charge. We need people like Samuel and David in the Church. But we often miss the purpose of these leaders. Paul tells us the reason God gives leaders of different types to the Church in Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT).
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
The purpose of the leader is to equip (“prepare” in other translations) God’s people to do His work. Yes, they are to certainly lead by example, but they are not to do all the work themselves while the rest of the Church cheers them on. That was Israel’s expectation of a king. They exclaim to Samuel in 1 Samuel 8:20 (NIV) Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles. Too often the Church treats leaders like their designated hitters instead of being coaches who train and equip them to do God’s work.
On that note, I sometimes think the church is like a professional baseball game. There are nine professionals playing the game at any one time, while thousands of fans sit in the stands watching and cheering…or cringing or complaining depending on how their team is doing. The fans criticize, theorize, rationalize, memorize, and spend money on team merchandise, but it is never their intent to actually get into the game. Indeed the professional team has no desire or intent to get the crown down into the team dugout. Their job is to play to entertain the fans.
Too often this seems to be how it is in the average local church. The “fans,” the people in the pews, have their favorite “professional” players (pastors, leaders, speakers, authors) whom they criticize, theorize, rationalize, memorize, and spend money on their merchandise (books, CD’s, DVD’s, conferences), but it is never their intent to actually get into the game. And, sadly, it seems many of the “professionals” are content to enjoy their fans.
We need to get back to the biblical role of the leader. We need to be living and leading in such a way as to serve the people we lead so that in the grace that God has given us, we are equipping the people in our congregations to do the work God has called them to do. Christianity is not a spectator sport. We need to lead in such a way as the people who we are leading know that if you are a Christian you are on the team, not a fan in the stands.