“In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers…While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” From Acts 13:1-2
After many years of believing that church leaders were pretty much “on their own” with their decision making, I’ve come to believe that God is as willing as He has ever been to lead church leaders.
I can’t go into the whole story here; suffice it to say that I’ve come to embrace the possibility of enjoying what revivalist Oliver Price described as “…Jesus Christ, obviously present and actively in charge of the church.”
“Actively in charge,” means that the Holy Spirit is guiding, directing and re-directing, just like in the Book of Acts.
It’s wonderful. It’s awesome. And it’s a real possibility.
Here’s what we can do to make God’s leadership a reality in our ministries:
We can practice humility. This means that we:
Are impressed with God, but not ourselves (or each other)
Embrace our ignorance – we know that there’s so much that we don’t know
Employ all the wisdom we can muster, while admitting that human experience has its limits
Fear the consequences of our ignorance, knowing that we can mess up “royally” by doing this without God’s help
Everything else I’m going to say starts right here, with a comprehensive humility. Have you messed something up badly enough to learn this?
Or perhaps you’re one of the few truly wise ones (very few) who have never been impressed with themselves.
We can pursue meekness.
Meekness is an important Biblical concept which has been almost entirely obliterated by our modern translations. Meekness is not weakness, wimpiness, under-assertiveness or will-lessness. It is not humility and it is not gentleness – though it is closely related to both concepts.
Meekness is the willingness to not get your own way. It is submissiveness, in the sense of the willingness to submit to or follow God Himself and God-ordained leaders. Burger King let you have it your way; God does not.
The opposite of meekness is will-fullness. Willful church leaders are dangerous people. One willful church leader can destroy the ability of a team to clearly hear from and follow God’s leadership. Multiple, willful, church leaders leave God’s will drawn-and-quartered, ripped apart from several directions.
Can willful leaders hear God’s voice? Sometimes I’m talking to someone who is so anxious to answer me that while he’s supposedly listening, his lips are already moving. But what if the speaker is God?
We can pursue unity.
There’s a reason why the Apostle Paul said, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Unity and peace don’t just happen; they must be pursued.
I’m not sure that a disunited leadership team can hear God’s voice.
What if the prophets and teachers of Antioch has been disunited? Would Paul and Barnabas ever have been sent? Would a disunited Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-40) been able to follow the Spirit’s leadership?
We can practice serious prayer.
Token prayers won’t do. “Opening” prayers will not cut it. A “word” of prayer will not suffice.
Serious prayer takes serious time and shows God that we are serious about doing His will.
The best pastor-search teams make prayer their main business.
The best church boards, committees, teams and staffs pray until they are certain that they’ve heard from God.
It is no accident that the leaders at Antioch were fasting and praying – not eating pizza and telling jokes – when they heard from the Holy Spirit.
We can learn how to wait.