For the last blog post in this series on leading church change with the Word, let’s approach this whole topic strategically. On a very practical level, what are the key avenues for leading with the message, methods, and means of the Word in your congregation? In other words, what are the most strategic contexts in which to communicate with your people continually and consistently that the Bible is the authority in all areas of doctrine, ministry philosophy, programming methodology, and decision making in your church?
I realize every church is different and so your congregation may have an avenue or two that is unique to your ministry context. However, I believe there are four avenues in every church from which pastors must lead strategically with the Word. This is particularly true when it comes to leading change in church revitalization.
Consider each of these briefly:
1. The Pulpit
Faithful, expositional preaching, week in and week out, is critical for a church to experience revitalization. I’ve heard it said that as the pulpit goes, so goes the health of a church. I believe this is true. God has always used the faithful, passionate preaching of His Word to transform hearts, as well as congregations. Establishing the Bible as the sole authority each and every week from the pulpit will help shape a congregation’s understanding of who is ultimately in charge: God.
One of the reasons many churches are dying today is because they have knowingly or unknowingly allowed idols of various kinds to creep in and hijack authority, which belongs to God and His Word alone. These idols often take the form of traditions, programs, systems and mindsets that are out of sync with the Word, quenching the Spirit and His desires for the congregation. This is not a healthy place for a church to be.
For this reason, we must speak the truth in love to our people about the dangers of idolatry. As we love and shepherd the flock, our preaching must address the deep concerns and warnings God lays out in Scripture regarding idolatry. Idolatry exists in our hearts individually, as well as in our congregations as a whole. We do this humbly, but we also do so boldly.
We must let the Bible speak for itself. We must let the Bible wound, that it might ultimately heal. That it would bring conviction and correction. That it might bring salvation and direction. The pulpit is key in this. Whether it’s an ungodly attitude toward lost people, an unwillingness to make changes that are clearly in the best interest of the congregation as a whole, a fear of engaging the changing community or maybe even a prideful works-righteousness mentality, whatever it is, we must apply the authoritative Word of God to idolatry in our churches. This is what good leaders do. This is what faithful shepherd pastors do. This is what God has called us to.
2. Leadership Meetings
Leadership meetings are a primary place for pastors, deacons and others to lead from the Word. Often in churches, the only time the Bible is really used is in the corporate worship gathering and Sunday School or small groups. It’s rarely included in meetings or gatherings beyond perhaps a brief devotion. It shouldn’t be strange for the Bible to be discussed regularly during leadership meetings. In fact, if the Bible truly is our authority, we should have our Bibles open and ready to use at all times that God Himself might guide us.
So, in your leadership meetings, establish early on that the Bible will play a central role in your discussion and decision making together. For example, as you talk about a new outreach event, use the Scriptures to explain why this idea is biblical and why having an outward, missional focus is what God desires of your church. When we lead like this, we are handing over authority to the Word of God, where it belongs. We are demonstrating what it looks like when a church truly is led and governed by God, through the Scriptures.
3. Congregation-wide meetings and gatherings.
Most of the churches we lead are going to have regularly scheduled congregational meetings (or gatherings) with our members. In these meetings, we want to allow the Word to guide the agenda and the discussions, especially early on in the revitalization process.
For example, during a congregational meeting, whenever we are presenting a new ministry idea or strategy, we should always connect it with key Scriptures that back it up. We want our people to see that God is the leader to whom we all submit in this church. He directs us. He tells us what to do and where to go. And He does this through His Word, by the Spirit. The Word of God leads to life, and we want God’s people, His church, to come alive as they submit to the Word.
4. One on one.
The best way to love and lead a congregation is to first love and lead the individuals that comprise that congregation. This is especially true when it comes to leading change. We must seek to get individuals on board, one at a time, with particular changes. This happens best as we pursue folks one on one, leading them with and from the Word.
What does this look like? As we are meeting with individuals about key issues and potential changes that are coming up in the church, we reason with them from the Bible. We seek to show them that we as a church care most about doing what God says to do, in God’s way. And as we do this, we are sensitive to each individual’s questions and concerns. We take the time to listen well and then help them to understand from Scripture why we believe God is leading in this new direction. In leading this way, we are demonstrating again what it looks like for God, through His Word, to be the authoritative leader of your church. It isn’t your agenda you are after, but God’s.
Leading from the Word, with the Word
The bottom line is that we are called to lead and pastor dying churches God’s way, for God’s glory. For this to happen, we must help our churches recapture a passion for the Word of God. This includes helping them understand and live out a joyful submission to the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, authoritative and sufficient Word that it is. In doing this, God’s Word will rule in your church, which assures God will reign over your church. May we be humble pastors who seek to lead from the Word, with the Word, for the glory of God and the good of His church.
This post originally appeared on Mark’s blog, Preach Lead Love.
Published April 6, 2021