Note: As we continue this series on leading church change with the Word, this third post will focus on the absolutely essential importance of Scripture shaping, guiding and directing the hearts of the leaders of a church desiring to be revitalized.
Once we establish the Bible as the authority in our lives and in our churches, we must consider how this ought to practically affect the hearts of the leaders in the congregation. Here’s what I mean. It is one thing to believe in the authority of Scripture, but quite another to eagerly and joyfully submit to it in one’s life, along with the life and leadership of the congregation. This must be modeled. It must be lived out before and alongside those in the congregation.
The truth is, for effective, Word-driven change to take place in any struggling church, the leaders of that particular church must first let the Word change them. They must seek to live and lead with a posture of loving and glad submission to the Bible. Of course, this begins with the pastor himself, but it must also include the other key leaders in that congregation, whoever they may be — deacons, elders, board members, committee or team leaders, those on staff, etc.
You see, one pastor, one leader alone cannot lead the change needed to bring a dying church back to a place of health and vibrancy. It takes a team of humble, godly loving leaders submitted to Scripture to lead this kind of change well. For this reason, it is absolutely vital for all of those in leadership to first allow the Word of God to shape their hearts that it might shape the way they lead God’s people.
This should be one of the top priorities of anyone called to church revitalization: helping other leaders in the church experience the joy and freedom of yielding to the Word of God in both their personal lives and in their leadership. To allow the Scripture, through the Spirit, to lead the leaders so that together they might guide the congregation in a God-honoring manner. Let me share five specific ways I believe the Word, through the Spirit, must lead and shape the hearts of the leaders in a declining church.
1. The Word must establish humility in the hearts of leaders.
James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” As leaders, we each must ask the Lord to humble us that we might see the Word alone as our authority. It all begins here. If we’re ever going to lead congregations that embrace the Bible as their authority, we as leaders must first see it as our authority. Humility undergirds this kind of teachable attitude and mindset.
2. The Word must shape the way leaders display Christ’s love for the flock.
1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love that He laid down His life for us and we ought to lay down our life for the brothers.” As Christ has loved us and transformed us through His love, so must we, by His Spirit, seek to love those we lead as Jesus would. We must daily pray, “Oh God, may your Word penetrate my heart in such a way that it would cause me to grow in loving people the way Jesus loves people. Make me a loving leader as Your Spirit transforms me through Your Word.”
3. The Word must instruct leaders in the way of gentleness.
Gentleness is absolutely critical in the life of a godly leader, especially those called to lead in a dying church. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 says, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” Paul understood the importance of gentleness in leadership. He knew well that those who lead with harshness and forcefulness will never win the hearts of those they lead. Gentleness is essential. We must let the Word instruct us and equip us in Christ-like gentleness, what it is and what it looks like in practice. A biblical leader is a gentle leader.
4. The Word must grow a leader’s patience.
Ephesians 4:1-3 says, “I therefore a prisoner for the Lord urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Isn’t it amazing how patient the Lord has been with us? How can we not then show patience with others — especially with those we lead. Revitalization takes a lot of patience. It’s slow work. Genuine, sustained patience can only come from the Holy Spirit who applies the truth of the Word to our hearts and minds. When people criticize our leadership, when they attack our decision making, when they come after us for whatever reason, we need to return their angst with love and patience, putting into practice Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “And we urge you brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
5. The Word must encourage leaders to persevere and not give up.
Leadership of any kind in the church is hard. And at times, it will be tempting to throw in the towel. This is especially true for leaders volunteering hours of time and loads of energy to help the church thrive. Where do we go in these times of discouragement, when we want to give up? We go to the Word of God. This is where we find hope in the tough times of leadership. Consider a few encouraging passages written by church leaders in the face of their own challenges:
— James 1:2-4: “Count it all joy my brothers when you face trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (perseverance), and let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.”
— Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary of doing good for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.”
— 2 Thessalonians 3:13: “As for you brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.”
— Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
As leaders in the church, we must always remember that the Lord is with us! He is with us in the joys, and He is with us in the trials. And he’s not just with us, but He is for us! We can forget that sometimes. This is why we need to rest in the truth of the Word of God, which tells us God’s grace and mercy, His presence and power, through the Holy Spirit, will give us all we need to love and lead God’s people well for the long haul.
This post originally appeared on Mark’s blog, Preach Lead Love.
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Published March 23, 2021