I hear about it all too often. Some pastor shares his/her frustration because they can’t rally the congregation to get serious about evangelism. Or follow-up. Or missions within the community. The list goes on and on. But when I ask the all important question, “So, when was the last time you personally introduced someone to the Kingdom?” Then I quickly add that someone “walking the aisle” after a sermon’s invitation doesn’t count. Most of the time I get a blank stare. Sometimes, though, they’re quick on their feet and quote scripture at me:
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. (Eph 4:11-13 NRSV)
Which, of course, is the biggest cop-out for obedience to the word and tenor of the New Testament I’ve ever seen. If either Jesus or Paul are examples of faithful leadership, then we can be quite sure that we don’t get off the hook for being faithful to the Great Commission.
Of course, there’s the old saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.” Well, I have my own saying that isn’t quite so cynical, but hits a bull’s eye for truth: “You Can’t Lead Where You’re Not Going.”
Let’s tease that out just a teeny bit. John Maxwell is pretty well known for his own saying that a leader without followers is just out taking a walk. Followers, by nature, follow. They go where their leader is going. Jesus said, “Follow me.” Paul said, “Emulate the pattern I’ve given you.” Both of them were on the road doing what they expected their followers to do.
But many of our church leaders today were trained, not to be practitioners, but to be academicians who study and teach rather than do and train. That would be a great model for one of the Scribes or Teacher’s of the Law, but not a great model for church leadership.
Now, before anyone leaps out to quote Acts 2:42 to remind me that the new Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching,” let me be quick to remind that it was the apostles who were charged with being a witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth…and in general, they remained on the blessed assurance in Jerusalem, even when the great persecution began and everyone else “except the apostles” were scattered. Indeed, it seems that the apostles actually left Jerusalem round about AD 70 when Jerusalem was sacked and they didn’t have a choice but to leave.
All that’s to say that the Christian movement fired up around the world because there were leaders like Paul, Philip, Barnabas, Mark, Silas, Timothy, and all those scattered by the persecution. These “leaders” led by doing and training, not by sitting in their offices, Sunday School classrooms, or pulpits and telling their congregants that they should be going (while they hold down the fort).
You can’t lead where you aren’t going. If you want your congregation doing evangelism (or follow-up, or missions, or…), then get out there and set an example. Take someone with you so you can train them (rather than teach them). And your congregation just may conclude that if it’s important enough for you, then it’s important enough for them too. Then one day when you’re out on a walk, you’ll turn around and be amazed at the followers you have.
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