Fixing the Leadership Deficit in Our Churches

I am writing to agree with the recent article Dear pastor, why didn’t you prepare me? For pastors should not only teach but also equip Christians, for all seasons. Shepherds are also trainers. My preferred viewpoint, however, is to frame the issue of preparing Christians within the broader context of mission. Christ commissioned the church to make disciples which included teaching them (Matthew 28:16-20). I am convinced that this commission is not only a command but an expression of God’s love for mankind. The entire church should emulate this love. It is both out of this love and for the purpose of loving others that Christ commissions his church. I will argue in this article that this commission is a collective effort. In other words, it is not restricted to Christian leaders or pastors. This should also help us fix the leadership deficit we are experiencing today.

Christ’s commission is a collective effort. It is not restricted to Christian leaders or pastors

What is Biblical Leadership?

Exodus 18:14, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and Ephesians 4:12-16 are just a few Bible texts that point us to the basic leadership concept of working together, interdependency and collaboration. This is necessary for the health of the church and its effective ministry. In the Exodus text, Jethro admonishes Moses for sitting alone as judge while Israel stood around waiting from morning to evening. God taught Moses through Jethro the concept of teamwork and delegation.

The second text points us to the diversity of gifts given to the different believers. These gifted believers, ordained or unordained, are necessary for the team to fulfil Christ’s commission. The third text in Ephesians confirms the existence of the different gifts necessary for maturing the church (also see Romans 12:3-8). The church has been provided with all the resources necessary for her maturity and effectiveness. Each of the ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4 can be fulfilled by Christians or “saints,” provided they are identified and equipped.

This is Rick Warren’s point when he writes in his Purpose Driven Church that, “Becoming like Christ is the result of the commitments we make. We become whatever we are committed to! Just as a commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a great church, it is also the way to grow a great Christian.”

The Problem Today

Unfortunately, many Christians seem to have misunderstood Christ’s command and commission as their own. It is not uncommon for the pastor to be personally responsible for executing every task in the church. This, in my opinion, is the leadership deficit. It is the result of a failure to inspire and involve all Christians. Their involvement should extend beyond non-teaching positions and responsibilities. Christ calls Christians to make disciples. This problem is prevalent in many churches today.

Churches need leadership. This leadership must desire maturity and so act help the entire church fulfil its God given work

Even someone like Myles Munroe, makes the argument that, “Nothing happens without leadership. Nothing changes without leadership. Nothing develops without leadership.” From this observation, we can conclude that many churches are not fulfilling their mission to make disciples because no one has provided leadership. Churches need leadership. This leadership must desire maturity and so act to help the entire church fulfil its God given work. Instead, we have Christians who cannot use their gifts because they have never been encouraged or equipped to do so.

Below are the beginnings of an outline towards a biblical strategy to help leaders accomplish Christ’s commission. For this will result in churches that are both equipped and inspired to obey Christ.

Leadership Deficit: 3 Biblical Solutions 

The solution proposed below is grounded in Christ’s character and commission. As I already noted, because Christ loves the world he sends his church. But this love must be matched by character. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, encouraging Timothy to develop leaders whose character was above reproach. Therefore the church’s mission must be matched by a Christlike manner. We should not desire obedience to the commission from those unable to obey Christ’s two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40). With that in mind, let us consider three biblical strategies or solutions:

  1. Evangelism. Churches should go on the offensive. The world needs the gospel. For this to happen, for them to hear, the church must understand their local communities and proclaim the gospel to them. Leaders must provide basic training in evangelism, simple ways to explain the gospel that connect with the audience (Acts 17:22-34).
  2. Discipleship. This involves identifying the characteristics of a mature disciple. Bible literacy is one of the characteristics practiced by the Jerusalem church (Acts 2:42-47). The others include: building communities of believers; participating in communion; and mercy ministry. The aim for these smaller groups of believers, even individuals, is twofold. Firstly, they do not need spoon-feeding by their pastors. Secondly, they support other believers, through care as well as communicating Christian truth.
  3. Team building. Linked with the above, building teams involves identifying gifts and arranging believers into teams that can support one another and work alongside other teams. This requires clearly outlining roles and responsibilities. Churches should craft a process for discovering, developing and deploying the different gifts. Every believer is gifted and it is up to the church leadership to identify the different gifts, refine and put them to good use.

Where Christians are equipped the church can flourish, whether in good or bad times

Working Together For Christ

Addressing the leadership deficit prevalent in many churches today demands revisiting the basic requirements of our faith. What does it mean to follow Christ and fulfil his commission? Who is that commission for? By now I hope you are convinced that all Christians are urged to emulate Christ’s character and obey his commandments. Therefore each of us must own the task of making disciples. Leaders must provide their churches with the tools for evangelism by both discipling them and developing their gifts. This will provide a basis for healthy church growth. Where Christians are equipped the church can flourish, whether in good or bad times.