I have been writing about the church for a few days now–I have a lot of concern for the church and its state. I am not worried that the church will collapse or disappear. Certainly, some gatherings of believers will collapse and some will disappear, often leaving behind a building that no quite knows what to do about and a collection on positive and negative stories circulating around the community.
My concern deals more with the practical reality of how believers need a gathering of other believers where they can learn about their faith as God intended. When the church fulfills that role, it is doing and being what it is meant to do and be. But one of the problems that the church runs into grows out of human psychology and sociology. Except for a few people whose introversion far surpasses mine, most of us end up as part of many different groups of people which all have different purposes.
And no matter what the group exists for, no matter what it intends to do, no matter how it defines itself, there is one basic question that everyone wants answered whether they ask it aloud or now. When I am part of a group, I want to know who is in charge–who is the boss? Personally, I generally also want to know why that person or people are in charge but I am pretty sure that is more one of my own internal issues than a generalized human need.
So, the church is a gathering of people who share a common faith and who come together as God planned to help each other understand, develop and practice the faith they have in God through Jesus Christ. And, if you have been reading the past few posts to this blog, you realize that while we may call the gathering “my” church or “our” church, the church really belongs to God, who founded it through Jesus Christ, which makes God the boss.
Theologically, that is correct–practically, it doesn’t work that way. It might be God’s church and we might be God’s people and we might be committed to finding and doing God’s will but in the end, someone or some group in the church is going to end up providing leadership for the church. We can hope and pray that that person or persons will be conscious of the fact that they are representing God–but we can’t always be sure of that. The history of the Faith is pretty clear on the fact that many people who claim to be leading the church on God’s behalf are pretty much doing their own thing.
We can’t really try to structure the group so there are no leaders or bosses. That has been tried in a variety of places by a variety of groups, both faith-based and secular with less than spectacular results. Inevitably, a group without leadership ends up being a group where every member feels he or she is a leader and the resulting group dynamics end up destroying the group’s effectiveness or destroying the group itself.
Churches I have worked with and heard of generally have one of two problems when it comes to leadership–they have too many leaders or now enough leaders. Either situation creates a church that is ineffective at helping its members grow and develop and practise their faith. One common variation of this problem that has become very prominent in the last few years is that many pastors feel that they are supposed to be the leader of the group.
A basic question that needs to be asked is why we need a leader at all? I mean, we are believers, we have committed ourselves to God through Jesus, we are guided by the presence of the Holy Spirit so why do we need a leader? I think there are a couple of reasons.
First, there is the practical human reality–when the group gets larger than one, at least one in the group is going to want direction and at least one other is going to want to provide that direction. The bigger the group, the more who want direction and the more who want to provide direction.
The second reason is more pertinent to the church. In planning for the church and its work, God provided a variety of resources, one of which is people who can lead. These resources are generally called the gifts of the Spirit and we will look at them in the next post.
May the peace of God be with you.