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Leaders, Followers and Changers
November 1999

This, for the most part, will be addressed to the men-folk, but I would suggest that there are plenty of Godly women out there to whom it could apply as well. If you’re a woman who feels you see some sense in what I’m about to say, then use it as a prod of encouragement to the main men in your life, including your pastor.

There are far too many men in the ministry today who do not belong there. It is bad enough that only 15% of us are still in the pastoral ministry after age 50, but there are plenty of guys who don’t belong here at any age. Sometimes I wonder if I do; if anything, I almost take the ministry too seriously, and, as Pastor Bill Whorton said to me last Friday, “Dave, you take it too personally.” Well, that’s true. But, enough about me...

It is particularly true of pastors that there are so few really good leaders among them. District superintendents, bishops or overseers (all basically the same function -- someone who corrals and leads the pastors in any given area) are usually men who have made it to that position through political maneuvers of either their own or their denomination, but it all comes down to the same thing: in spite of the politics, leaders are given to us by God. And they have to be anointed that way, or you’re just going to have a professional clergyman, albeit sincere, but still, functioning in an area where sometimes he doesn’t belong. Sad, but too often true. I hear it a lot, probably because I am ordained a bishop these past 23 years and work as much with clergy as I do with laity these days. I guess this means I must have arrived somewhere by now, but I’m not really sure if I like this “position.” Clergymen can be pretty messed up.

It’s probably because it comes down to who has authority from God. The Catholics, the Orthodox, the Mormons, etc., all believe true authority and who has it is the cornerstone of their belief respective systems, and I agree that authority is important. But I venture to say that there are people who are called, anointed and gifted with authority by Him who do not necessarily belong to any group that deems it that important. Protestant churches are full of them: the authority isn’t nearly as important to them as their educational background. And the hard-to-define but ever-present “are you ordained?” question (which cannot be easily described by the person who asks it but just wants to hear a “yes” so they don’t have to deal with it anymore).

God gives us leaders. It is clear when you see how some guys speak and folks listen. They can say about anything and they’ll have an audience. Others strive to produce great sermons, good use of humor, a good beginning and a surprise ending, but still sound like an ecclesiastical mosquito in a local church’s maelstrom when it comes to saying something that really means, “The Mind of the Lord concerning this is this. Period.” The local power people in the congregation may not like it and grumble about him as they dissect him and his wife and kids over Sunday dinner later, but it’s usually because they’re under conviction themselves. They’d better listen, because God does respect our obedience to people He’s clearly placed in our lives with that kind of authority. I’m not saying it’s wrong to disagree or to have an opinion at all; but if he is the one who is speaking the Word of God into your life, then it behooves you to at least hear him and deal with what God may well be saying through him fairly.

Before I go on, two more points about Leaders: A) They will never have to promote, advertise or assert their authority. If it comes from God, it rests on them. B) Pray for them. Their biggest temptations will be to fall because: 1) women are attracted to men of power; 2) men used to being listened to often decide they don’t need to be in authority under anyone else; 3) these are the men who often can become personality-cult leaders if not worse, just because this kind of power, gone wrong, can lead to that very easily.

Then there are the Followers. These are people who can be just as anointed by God for ministry, but not in a position of authority. One of the mistakes I feel the Body of Christ has made for far too long is that we associate any gift, calling or ministry a person has as automatically carrying a pastoral or prophetic type of authority with it. Not so. For example, God has anointed some of you to be mothers. Hey! That is a calling that only He can give you and I know I didn’t get it.

Ever notice that some folks who naturally win people to the Lord with such ease are often encouraged to become pastors, much to their misplacement in days to come? We have this naďveté that just because someone is gifted as what the Bible calls an evangelist, they can be a pastor too because, heck!, “it’s the same thing.” Right? WRONG! A good evangelist especially needs to be under the care of an anointed pastor because, should the evangelist go awry, he can end up being a loose cannon and taking several down the garden path of deception with him. He is a follower, strange as it may seem, and he needs the leader that God has put in his life -- a true pastor in the Biblical sense of the word.

I think you get the picture. But wait! I’m not done yet. There are two more categories that both fall into one, in a sense: Changers. I don’t mean the guys who handled the money in the temple who rightfully riled Jesus’ Self-Righteous indignation. No, the changers I’m talking about fall into two categories: Positive Changers and Negative Changers.

The Positive Changers (which I’ll call PCs, for short), see a situation and their involvement makes a difference for good. It may not seem good at the time, but it is. Dave & Penni Reed, in Massachusetts, are former Jehovah’s Witnesses who now love the real Jesus more than anything else. Their lives for the past many years have proved it. Dave & Penni, about as unpresumptuous as anyone could get, find a church that has a need, then go in to make a change for the positive, without ever usurping control. Whether they succeed or not is not their responsibility; God knows He can place them strategically and that they’ll be faithful to Him in that place. What the others do with the Reeds’ gifts in their midst is their responsibility, ultimately resulting in their gain or their loss. Jerry & Maureen Shoop, from Idaho, do the same thing, although they do it under the auspices of a program that places them in a church to bring about positive changes in a Godly way. They are gifted that way and they use their gift. As I said, these PCs are not as plentiful as I’d like to see, but even if they were, if they’re not going to be received in a place, then why waste good people in bad churches?

Then there are the Negative Changers, or NCs, as I’ll call them. They like to make changes all right: they buck the hand of God, the sensible way to go, what is best for the majority, all in the name of “change,” but not a change for good. It is self getting in the way and it doesn’t matter how reasonable the direction may be, they’ll always be the nay- sayers. They worry. They criticize. They’re never content. They’ll even find fault with a Utah sunset. They’re the ones that, after the plans have all been laid out, will want to change them at the last minute, then fail to show up even if they had been accommodated. They expect to be indulged. And it’s all self. And you know what I discovered about them? They’re often lonely.

Loneliness. It is, unfortunately, rampant throughout the Christian Church as well as in the world. Normally, I’d say that there’s no excuse for it in the Church if the corporate members of the Body of Christ were doing their job and “placing the solitary into families,” as the Bible encourages us to do. But then, Tim Gregory and I were talking and he said something pretty profound, but true:

“Dave, did you ever notice that the people we know who gripe about being single and lonely are also among the most selfish, self-centered and self-absorbed people we know?” I thought about that and realized that just about everyone I’ve counseled lately with that complaint is, in fact, so into themselves that they never look for ways in which to serve, to reach out or to show that they even notice that there’s anyone else out there. Their lives, especially their thought life, revolves around themselves; their emotions are all based on how they feel. It’s as though they don’t even consider that anyone else has feelings.

This narcissism exists in the Body of Christ probably because no pastor ever wants to confront it. After all, as one pastor told me years ago, “singles are the biggest headache you’ll ever have in your church. I avoid them, even though I’m the pastor. All they ever do is whine and complain anyway.” While that may seem heartless, after all, he is still their pastor as well as the marrieds, it doesn’t change the fact that many singles (not all, thankfully) often do share these traits. Then they wonder why they’re still single. The fact that they can’t understand that the average young woman isn’t going to want to put up with someone who can only talk about himself, his interests and his pursuits is, in itself, an irony. But that is how self-absorbed they actually are -- they cannot even see that they’re being this way.

I finally took the bull by the horns with a few of them lately (it’s generally guys that are this way) and pointed it out. All nodded in agreement, some I think absorbed it and, so far, (and still counting), only one has done anything to try to change it.

The NCs are often lonely, even in their marriages. And folks have told me that it’s far worse being lonely as a married person than lonely as a single. The only way they feel they can have a voice or any authority at all is to buck those that truly do have authority. It’s perverted, but consider this: the person who wants power of any kind, usually will try to do it in a secondhand way by challenging the existing powers that be, even when the powers that be are extremely benevolent. The Bible calls it rebellion.

Understand, I’m not talking about being someone who goes against the tide when the tide is wrong. Jesus even said He’d rather you be hot or cold, just don’t be lukewarm. He, and I, would like to see passion of some kind because then, at least, there’s signs of life and, if it is cold, at least it can be redirected and warmed. There are times when we do need to speak up and call things as they are. That is NOT a bad thing. It is a Positive Changer who has not succumbed to the sin of “niceness” and ended up selling the Christian farm through compromise. What I am talking about is people who are contrary for the sake of being contrary. Often, it is the only “power” they’ll ever feel they have and after awhile, they’re hooked on it. Is that the motive of your heart? If so, you need an attitude adjustment.

Are you a Leader? Are you a Follower? Or are you a Positive Changer? Examine yourself. If you are any of the above, see how you can serve best in the place where God has planted you. If you’re a Negative Changer, repent or get out! You’re spoiling it for the rest of us.

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