The Need for Spiritual Leadership
In the middle of the 20th century, the Church of England commissioned a report entitled Towards the Conversion of England. The goal was to discover what was taking place within the parishes of the Anglican Communion. In that report, the writers came very quickly to the topic of leadership, on which they observed, “A spiritual leader can often make an astonishing difference.” The adjective “spiritual” is crucial. If the church is going to flourish in the world, it must have spiritual men in the position of leadership. Although we are distanced from that report by many years, and although a lot has changed since then, the strategic necessity for spiritually mature leaders, in whatever country or denomination we are in, has not changed. No church of Jesus Christ progresses beyond the spiritual progress of its leaders.
Every sports team has a captain or equivalent. Each member of the team may be equally valuable, but someone has to lead. Without a captain, a team loses direction and will often lack the discipline needed to win. The same is true in an orchestra: without a conductor, it risks losing coordination and any meaningful sense of harmony.
The necessary role of leadership is true in every area of life—and it’s no different with God’s people. Jesus was the leader of a group of twelve disciples. When He ascended to heaven, Peter and James appear to have become the leaders of the apostles and the church in Jerusalem. The apostles then established leadership in the local churches. When Paul wrote to Titus, he was very concerned that the right kinds of men were appointed to positions of leadership within the church (Titus 1:5-9). If an error was made in who was appointed, then the resulting damage would not be easily undone. And when he had limited time near Ephesus, it was “the elders of the church” who Paul summoned to Miletus in order to encourage and exhort.
Without good leadership, chaos easily follows. Many of the unsolved problems in the life of local churches can be traced back to defective leadership. Conversely, the resolution of problems almost always can be traced back to effective leadership.
If success depends upon the quality of leadership, then Christians should care deeply about leaders within their local church. Christ purchased the church with His own blood, and it is through the church that God intends to display His glory in the world and to the spiritual realms (Ephesians 3:10). Take time, then, to pray for your leaders. Consider how you can actively encourage them to faithfulness and in their labors. Be someone whom to lead is an occasion for joy and not groaning (Hebrews 13:17)—for your leaders’ sake, and for yours.
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders
17Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18And when they came to him, he said to them:
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by3 the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,4 which he obtained with his own blood.5 29I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
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