Where Are The Leaders?

District Fellowship News

July, August 2007

In our current national climate many people have bemoaned the absence of a “great” leader who can take the country where they want it to go. (We won’t even address the “where want it to go” issue here). There are complaints that the current administration or the former administration were inept and without direction. Oh to have someone like Ronald Reagan, or Franklin Roosevelt, or Abraham Lincoln, or George Washington, or… The list can go on and on of the great leaders we would like to see. Where are they now? What happened?

In the church , it can be the same way. We wonder what will happen when the current pastor who has led us so well is gone. How could we ever replace them? On the other hand, we may complain that the person who leads us now isn’t good enough or spiritual enough, or they don’t have vision. Anyone would be better than them. In his book, Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders makes a few points about leaders that we need to remember.

First, everyone is replaceable. No matter how big their persona is, no matter how important or grand, when we come right down to it, we need to look at the leader in the context of their relation to the work of God. When we see the big picture of God’s plan, every leader’s greatness is brought into perspective. There is only one person who cannot be replaced and that is the Lord Himself. When we compare any man whether prophet, king, president, dictator, pastor, or priest to the work of God, the plan of God, we see that their greatness lies in their obedience and submission to His will, not in their personal earthly accomplishments.

Second, not only are they replaceable but there is a replacement. Sanders says this, “We sometimes demean God by thinking that the death (or loss) of a great leader takes God by surprise, or sends God into emergency action.” We may be surprised and we may think that the world cannot go on because we have lost someone, but God is not surprised. God has the next leader in the wings. In Joshua chapter 1, after Moses who had brought the people out of Egypt, through the wilderness, to the border of the Promised Land had died, Israel didn’t wander with no leader. God said to Joshua, I have chosen you. The great leader is gone, but God had the next one in place, and Israel was able to take the Promised Land under his leadership. He was a different leader than Moses, he had a different style, but he was in obedience and submission to the will of God, and he accomplished the work God had set before him to do. Maybe the giftings are not the same or the new leader isn’t as charismatic, but this leader has what he or she needs to accomplish God’s purpose.

Leaders need to be careful as well, because we can become so enamored of our gifts that we forget our purpose is to lead God’s way. When we refuse to place our gifts fully at God’s disposal, we are not being the leader we could or should be, and God will use those with what we may consider lesser gifts who make them fully available to Him to accomplish His purposes. He is looking for humble hearts, and submitted wills more than incredible talent.

Last, great leaders are only seen in true perspective after they are gone. Our culture today has an incredibly bad habit of judging people’s impact before they do anything. We demean them or glorify them before we even have a clear picture of events. There was a reason that biographies were written after a person died, or at the end of a life. There was a reason that you had to wait until years after retirement to get into the Hall of Fame. The children of Israel weren’t very happy with Moses many times throughout their journey, and if the histories had been written during one of those times, the slant of the story would have been different. Jesus died without setting up a Kingdom on earth, with just a few hundred followers and no wealth. What if we wrote His story then? We can look back and see the impact of leaders in our lives. Time gives us a much better perspective.

Let’s appreciate and honor those who have been appointed to lead us. And be careful about being too critical of leaders because they don’t agree with your agenda, or they don’t do exactly what you would want, or lead where you want to go. Pray that above all else they will follow God’s leading and direction, and use their talents and gifts to the fullest for Him.