“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord… 2 Timothy 1:8
There is a lot of talk these days about “being the church” and about missional people and about moving “church” outside the walls of our church buildings. I love all that talk. I agree with it! But sometimes it feels to me like a lot of talk but very little actual implementation. Sometimes it feels to me like “the church” knows it should be moving in that direction but does not really want to move in that direction. It is, after all, very different from what our traditional churches have grown comfortable becoming.
One of the “tweaks” I think might help us is to re-think our criteria for choosing leadership in the church. Doesn’t our list of qualities for “leaders” among God’s people resemble pretty closely the qualities for leadership in the secular world? We look for charisma, competence, a good track record, good communication skills, and then, of course, we add spiritual qualifications like prayer and discernment. But would you also agree that, in most cases, we are looking for people who have “wowed” us with their presence and skills inside the church? I do see the merit in that…in order for them to be influential among God’s people, they definitely must have a testimony inside the church. But if we are trying to shift our culture from being overly inward-focused to being more outward-focused, shouldn’t we be looking for leaders who already have that mindset? If we are wanting to move toward “being the church outside the walls of the church” won’t we need leaders (both clergy and lay leaders) who are good at that?
After all, if you have any leadership skills at all, any influence or giftedness among God’s people, it is not hard to shine inside the walls of the church. That is the easy part. Leading in a way which glorifies God and has an influential effect on those outside the church, on the other hand, requires a certain “unashamed” quality. It requires Godly leaders who are not afraid to share a testimony or to lovingly defend their belief system in the face of a world who hates them for those very beliefs. Being a leader in this new culture of “church” requires an ability to love well even in the midst of ridicule.
We need leaders who can appreciate and embrace the good and beautiful aspects of our culture without becoming discredited by the uglier side of culture. We need leaders whose neighbors and co-workers not only are aware of their spiritual beliefs but they respect them for it. In a world where “Christians” are often known more for their hypocrisy than for their virtues, we need church leaders who are living above all of that and who have engaged very well the world outside the church. We in the church need to change how we select our leaders if we are serious about shifting our culture. We need leaders at every level whose lives reflect the very attitudes we say we are seeking.
So when you next begin recruiting leaders for your church, try looking beyond the same predictable criteria…look for people who are unashamedly walking the walk out in the world. And while you are considering those people and this new criteria, ask yourself whether YOU are that kind of leader.