Guest Columnist Dr. Gary L. Johnson
We’re still at war. Thousands of troops are courageously deployed in Afghanistan, attempting to win the longest-fought war in American history—and it appears we’re not gaining ground. Yet, we’re not only at war on the other side of the world; we’re still at war here. The war isn’t between political parties or the rich and the poor. As Paul wrote, it’s with the “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12)—and it doesn’t appear we’re winning.
Let’s be honest. Christianity isn’t gaining ground in the American culture. We’re barely holding what ground we have. We’re losing our influence in society. Statistics indicate that congregations are not only dwindling in size and closing, but the church is not making fully devoted disciples of Jesus who are changing the culture. To the contrary, the culture is changing the church, and not for the better.
Could it be that we who lead are responsible—at least in part—for the sad state of spirituality in the local church? President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk in the White House that read, “The buck stops here,” meaning he would not pass the buck to anyone else. He accepted personal responsibility for leading the nation. Can we who lead the local church say the same?
A long observed principle in business, education, and government states that an organization will rise to a level of greatness equal to that of its leaders. It’s reasonable to think this principle fits the local church. The effectiveness of the ministry of the local church reflects the level of effectiveness of her leaders—strong or weak. Given the situation we face in our culture, it’s essential that we do all we can to develop qualified leaders in the local church.
At The Creek, leadership development is a non-negotiable. Staff, elders, and other key leaders know they must continually develop their leadership skills by attending conferences, reading books, and working with mentors. Our commitment to this priority has led us to host a leadership development conference called ReChurch (www.thecreek.org/rechurch). Leaders from nearly 100 churches have attended, and have left better equipped to lead their local congregations through change.
In addition, Jim Estep, David Roadcup, and I co-authored a four-volume work of leadership training material for elders, and we’ve received much positive feedback from churches regarding the practical effectiveness of this material.
Bell Rock Lighthouse sits 12 miles off the coast of Scotland in the North Sea. For 200 years it has kept ships from crashing on an acre-sized rock lying just beneath the surface of the water. Called one of the “seven wonders of the industrialized world,” the lighthouse was built in the early 1800s by a crew of men using shovels and pick axes. The wonder of it all is that the tide exposes the rock for only four hours a day, and it was then that the crew worked with great urgency in their limited window of opportunity to build the lighthouse.
When it comes to developing leaders, we must work with the same urgency as our window of opportunity comes closer to shutting.
(Book series available at www.collegepress.com).
Dr. Gary L. Johnson is Senior Minister at Indian Creek Christian Church (The Creek) in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Shawn McMullen’s regular column will return next week