By Shawn McMullen
Recently I came across two stories that illustrate the importance of leadership and the power of example. I read that Mark Twain harbored hostility toward the Bible and the Christian faith most of his adult life, and that he attributed this attitude to church leaders he had known—elders and deacons who owned slaves and abused them.
He heard ministers cite biblical references to justify slavery. He heard church leaders use foul language and watched them engage in dishonest business practices. He admired the genuine devotion to Christ he saw in his mother and his wife, but the careless teaching and poor examples of the church leaders he knew tainted his view of Christianity.
Then I read that Matthew Henry, Bible scholar and author of the commentary series that bears his name, met a wealthy young lady from a noble family while on a trip to London. The two fell in love and the lady went to her father to ask his permission to marry. Her father replied indignantly, “This man has no background. You don’t know where he’s come from.” “That’s true,” the daughter said. “I don’t know where he’s come from. But I know where he’s going and I want to go with him.”
It’s a simple and time-tested truth. Poor leaders dishonor Christ and turn people away from him. Godly leaders honor Christ and point others to him.
The church needs godly leaders. Someone said, “As a stream can rise no higher than its source, a church can rise no higher than its leadership. It will not go where it is not led.”
The apostle Paul wrote about the importance of leadership in Ephesians 4:11-16. He listed several categories of leaders God has given to the church and addressed the benefits they bring to the body of Christ.
Paul says the task of church leaders is to prepare the members of the church for “works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (v. 12). In other words, God gave leaders to the church to promote the growth of the church. And they promote the growth of the church by providing examples of love, maturity, sacrifice, and service.
• Godly leaders help the church reach unity in the faith (v. 13).
• Godly leaders help the church attain unity in their knowledge of Christ (v. 13).
• Godly leaders help the church grow into maturity, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13).
• Godly leaders help the church maintain its doctrinal and moral purity (v. 14).
• Godly leaders guide the church into truth and love (v. 15).
• Godly leaders help the church become a fellowship of people who behave like Jesus Christ. That’s what Paul meant when he wrote, “We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (v. 15).
• Godly leaders see that the church “grows and build itself up in love, as each part does its work” (v. 16).
When a local church is blessed with godly leaders, growth—both spiritually and numerically—will certainly follow. Lord, give us godly leaders!
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