Christians all around the United States bemoan the steady decline in attendance and influence the Church has in the nation. Many reasons are given for this reality, but in my mind the greatest reason is a lack of leadership. The American Church does not have enough good leaders.
Part of this is due to the fact that Christian leaders have believed that good business leadership equaled good Christian leadership. They have read all the leadership books, filled with all the right clichés, but still do not have the influence need to truly lead people in spiritual formation.
Another part of the problem is that local church families have relied on paid pastoral staff to provide the leadership, rather than developing spiritual leaders within the congregation. This puts all the pressure and work on the paid staff to cast and implement the vision for the church.
The apostle Paul started a church on the island of Crete. While Paul did not stay, he did leave his companion Titus on the island to finish laying the foundation for a healthy church. What was the work Titus was to complete?
Titus was to establish a godly and competent leadership to guide this new community of believers. These are the guidelines Paul gives to Titus to help him complete this task:
I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. An elder must live a blameless life. He must be faithful to his wife, and his children must be believers who don’t have a reputation for being wild or rebellious. An elder is a manager of God’s household, so he must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money.
Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life. He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong. (Titus 1:5-9; NLT)
Notice that Paul’s emphasis was not on talent, but on character. Too often in the church we appoint people to be leaders (teachers, preachers, and decision makers) based not on their character, but on their talent and personality. We judge them on their ability to teach and preach. We want some one who is a people-person. We look for a Type A personality who is a real go-getter. How much trouble have we brought into our church families because we settled for talent and personality rather than character?
In God’s economy talent is worthless without character. God can do more through a person who is dedicated to Him, but has minimal talent, than He can with the person who has a load of talent, but is not committed to Him. Good leadership (when it comes to the Church) is founded on person’s commitment to God that is reflected in his/her character, rather than on talent and personality.
What does this have to do with us?
- We have to remember to support people who demonstrate Christian character (reflect Jesus in their lives), rather than the person who is talented. It is easy to be wowed by person with talent, especially if that person has a charismatic personality, but we have to look beyond the personality to see what their life is saying. A lack of character can quickly destroy the influence great talent has built.
- Christians need to continue to be faithful no matter what level of influence they apparently have. We may never have the leadership position that we want, but that doesn’t mean God will not use us to influence the lives of other people. When we are committed to God by faithfully follow Jesus, God will use us to impact the lives of other people. We don’t need a great amount of talent to have a great amount of influence.
I know it is easy to fall under the spell of the leader who has all the talent and personality. Not only do their out going personalities make them easy to like, but their go get them personality means they get things done. We like to see people who can make things happen.
That is why it is so important for us to take a step back and evaluate the people we are following. The first thing we need to consider is how they are living their lives. Talent is a great mask to hide an ugly life. Are we following people who are faithfully following Jesus?
It is also important for us to continue to live faithful lives, because we are probably unaware of the extent of our influence. We don’t need a ton of talent to make a difference in this world. If God can use a donkey to make a difference, then He certainly can use you and me to influence those around us.