Will It Really Make a Difference?

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The following is an excerpt from my book, The Christian Leader.

Perhaps you are wondering whether it will make a difference if we as Christian leaders change our thoughts and behavior about how to lead. The answer is determined by the goal. If by rehabilitated leaders we mean rehabilitated pastors, then the objective is narrowed to local congregations. The answer would be yes—pastors with new ways of thinking and behaving can change the ethos of their congregations. In fact, pastors are the single best hope for setting into motion the movement that will spur the church to accomplish what it should: to make disciples of all people.[1] Churches are to be outposts in the larger world, the places where Christians are taught and trained so they can be useful in making disciples.

The church and its leaders have always been on the margins of society, not at the cultural center. The president of a Christian denomination does not have the same societal influence as the president of Harvard or Stanford. An article in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal is more widely distributed than the same in the Moline Dispatch. Because of this, some think that the church should be intentional about reaching leaders who have cultural influence, that cultural elites make the important decisions about government and major educational and cultural institutions, and that the only way Christians can change society is to convert the leaders who count. But will such a strategy work, and is it the one that Christian leaders are commissioned to undertake? I don't believe so. The genius of God's method of bringing people into his kingdom is that we don't get to be part of the selection committee. God is at work in many a person's heart, both before and after a decision to follow Christ.

Dallas Willard spoke to this in a way that can startle the contemporary mind-set:

Ministers pay far too much attention to people who do not come to services. Those people should, generally, be given exactly that disregard by the pastor that they gave to Christ. The Christian leader has something much more important to do than pursue the godless. The leader's task is to equip saints until they are like Christ (Eph. 4:1 2), and history and the God of history waits for him to do this job.[2]

Every church has two categories of leaders. The first are pastors and teachers, whose primary role is to equip people for ministry. The second are leaders whose primary venue is the workplace and in the community. If the first set does its job, those in the second group can do theirs. Church leaders are called to train and deploy the entire congregation, regardless of gifts or status, so that they infiltrate society and live and work with those who need Christ. Our goal is to fill the culture with people who exhibit the character of Christ and influence people the way Jesus did.

NOTES

[1] For a treatment of the importance of pastors as teachers to the nations, see Dallas Willard's Knowing Christ Today, chapter 8, "Pastors as Teachers of the Nations," 193.

[2] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), 246.

Written by Bill Hull

Taken from The Christian Leader by Bill Hull. Copyright © 2016 by Robert W. Hull. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

Photo by William White on Unsplash

Chad Harrington