First, let’s admit that the honesty of the Scriptures shows us that some leaders just don’t cut it.
“…O My people, your guides mislead you, and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.” (Isaiah 3:12).
We have all seen our share of good and bad leadership. I hope many of us could also give an example of a leader they respect, and perhaps even someone who challenges us to grow by their own example. It seems though, for every good leader there is a bad leader - and bad leadership hurts. Our wounds seem that much more painful when bad leadership is exposed in the church.
Isaiah 3 gives us a good measure for identifying leadership problems. In Isaiah, the authorities that lead Israel astray are those who have shirked their responsibilities in order to feed their worldly self-interest. God ultimately asks these leaders a truly soul-searching question. “What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” (Isaiah 3:12). It seems that tyrannical leadership thrives by taking advantage of the weak. These people have devoured God’s people for their own temporary gain. There is a great lesson in Isaiah both for the leader and the follower. Church leaders must carefully consider where they may be focusing on self-interest over the needs of God’s sheep and if they ever use people for their own selfish ends. The Sheep should be careful to always follow God first and never follow false leaders into the pit.
God’s expectation for elders (who are leaders in the church) is found in one very profound verse even though the direction in this verse is primarily given to the church. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17). The implicit responsibility for elders is to deny self-interest in order to watch over the souls of the church. Elders are to be the opposite of those who use people for selfish gain. They are to follow Jesus in denying self in order to love, care and lead people to the glory of God. Eldership is a leadership structure designed for the church to joyfully follow. Elders should experience a joyful task. But is it?
The last sentence in Hebrews 13:17 seems to add a little flavor to this direction. “…Let them do this with joy and not groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Greek Scholar Ken Wuest suggests that the verse could be rewritten this way, “Obey them, then, that they may discharge their responsibility and perform these kindly offices for you joyfully and not with groaning, the groaning with which one resumes a thankless task, and with which he contemplates unappreciated and even opposed work.”
Eldership is a duty of reverence. Elders are judged on a different standard and know the call of God to seriously care for “every soul” to which they are to give an account. While the leaders of Israel seemed to flagrantly shirk their responsibilities to God’s people for their own worldly pursuits, elders are called to be men who feel the weight of responsibility for every individual soul that they must care for. They may not always do it perfectly, but whether they are able to do it with the full measure of joy has something to do with you.
I am not writing this week’s blog because I want you to give the elders of our church verbal affirmation or a pat on the back. We want you to know that we take our role seriously and we desire to love you with good teaching, discipleship and the loving care and protection of a shepherd. We want to see our church secure in gospel-centered truth and care. What we do want to ask you is whether you are fully on board in obedience and submission to making that a fully joyful task as the people of God who desire to be led to Christ. Do you truly value the high calling of your elders to give an account to God for your soul? It is no small consideration because we do not fulfill the great commission without unity.
This week we speak on the membership of the family. As we do, we will see how the responsibilities of the leadership and the church as a whole come together in a glorious partnership in the gospel.