As a pastor for over thirty years, I am amazed that such a small percentage of the children of Christian parents actually serve the Lord when they reach their teenage years and beyond, including the children of Christian leaders. Since nurturing covenantal children is the primary method God uses to establish His dominion on the earth as it is in heaven, there aren’t many subjects more important than the one I am addressing in this article.
Unfortunately, in every level and realm of life we have all witnessed serious leadership failure! It is no longer a surprise when we read about a high-level pastor, celebrity, sports figure or politician who is disgraced because of ethical or moral failure.
With the election of a new president in the United States in the next year, many people are wondering how God allows or chooses someone to become the leader of a nation. Since the church is actually referred to as a nation (1 Peter 2:9; Matthew 21:43) that is called to manifest God’s kingdom and disciple all the other nations of the world (Luke 11:2; Matthew 28:19), it behooves us to understand the theology behind geopolitical movements on the earth.
Pain is unavoidable in this world. The primary kind of pain I am referring to throughout this article is emotional, mental and psychological. Jesus promised us that in the world we will suffer tribulation John 16:33. (Both physical and emotional in this context) There are many different reasons for pain: some pain is self inflicted, some is caused by unexpected tragedies like an accident, some is caused by the behavior of other people, some from mental and emotional trauma, some, like in the Book of Job are divine tests, and more.
In 1999 the Spirit of God began to emphasize to me the recognition of the marketplace as part of the Kingdom of God, and since then many began to recognize the biblical mandate to disciple whole nations according to the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:28 and Matthew 28:19.
Many if not most scholars consider the Apostle Paul the most important leader in the history of the church with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ! Paul’s influence cannot be overstated in spite of him never having oversight of a megachurch (he started small house churches in about 30 cities); he wasn’t always very prosperous (often he spoke about being hungry, thirsty and naked as in 1 Cor. 4:11); he wasn’t a celebrity leader (often he was met by mobs of angry people wanting to kill him as in Acts 9, 14:11, 19); he was not very well known during his lifetime outside the cities and regions in which he planted churches (his fame spread beyond these regions after his lifetime through his letters to the churches); and he was diminutive, not necessarily good looking, and may not have been a great orator (2 Corinthians 10:10).
This says a lot about how today’s standards for measuring success stack up against the values of God laid out in Scripture. I have asked myself the question: If Paul were alive today, based on what is mentioned above, would he ever have been a celebrity preacher or featured on the front pages of newspapers and Christian magazines?
I have been a pastor almost thirty-four years and have been involved in initiating or participated in many local, citywide and national prayer gatherings. God has made it very clear that our first priority as leaders is to spend time with Him before we are sent out to minister (Mark 3:14). The apostle Paul also implores all believers to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In spite of all this, there are many denominational and non-denominational churches that do not have a regular prayer meeting. Consequently, in spite of the many good programs they may have, there is a huge gap in the church.
As a leader who has been the senior pastor of a local church in a major urban context, I have observed a fine line between what many deem healthy and unhealthy churches.
I define a healthy church as one that is relationally functional regarding its top leaders (elders, deacons, trustees, pastors and ministers) and its regular attendees and membership. Also, a healthy church has organic growth based on a balance of outreach and in-reach, or pastoral and evangelistic ministry, as well as discipleship and organizational systems that perpetuate the vision of the church.
Ever since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity divided in the 11th century, some of the greatest fears of the once united Christendom have been realized: fragmentation and division. Even in the 16thcentury, when Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation, there was hope there would only be a few major expressions of the body of Christ. Never in their wildest dreams did the reformers envision all the denominations and various branches and networks of Christianity that have evolved, which has given opportunity for a spirit of lawlessness, independence and empire building among some insecure but gifted leaders.
There has been a movement the past four decades amongst various segments of the body of Christ towards embracing the way of Jesus and the apostles as found in the first century church. Extensive writing has been done in this regard by Jeff Reed, the founder of BILD International (www.bild.org) who has given his life over to writing about the Pauline model of church multiplication and leadership development. Most recently, Dr. C. Peter Wagner has started a network of leaders who have been launching a movement of apostolic centers in the United States and beyond! (Peter has a knack for sensing what is practically needed and then galvanizing a movement around it.)