So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
These days, you can read dozens of books on church leadership. You can attend dozens of conferences each year that will give you the “secrets” of how to lead churches effectively. Different leadership models and emphases abound in these books and conferences. Some are taken from the business world. Some emerge from psychological or sociological perspectives. Others are based on personal experience or biblical exposition.
Ephesians 4:11-12 offers inspired insight into the unique role and function of church leaders. As we saw in last Thursday’s devotion, Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers as gifts to the church so that the church might do its ministry (4:11). Is there a common thread that runs throughout their service to Christ and his church? (For more on this question, I’d encourage you to read this article on the De Pree Center blog.)
As we’ll see in an upcoming reflection, all of these church leaders join together in the shared assignment of equipping God’s people for “works of service” (4:11). This is one thing these folk have in common. Another is a necessary connection to God’s Word. Apostles plant new churches by preaching the Gospel. In this sense, they share in the role played by evangelists, who also preach the good news. Prophets speak God’s word to their churches. Pastors shepherd their flocks primarily through teaching God’s truth, which is why they are called “pastors and teachers.”
Ephesians 4:11 underscores the centrality of God’s Word for church leadership. Those who serve in a variety of leadership roles share in common a dependence upon and a commitment to communicate God’s truth, both to those within the church and to those outside of it. This means that we can surely learn from a variety of disciplines—management theory, psychology, leadership studies, sociology—how better to lead God’s church. But, whatever else we do, we must proclaim and teach God’s truth as revealed in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, and Scripture, the Word in written form.
And if you exercise your leadership primarily in “secular” settings, you can still be informed by biblical truth and values. You can bring biblical wisdom into your work without saying, “Hey! This is from the Bible.” And you can show deep respect for your colleagues and subordinates without mentioning, “I get this from the creation account in Genesis 1.” If people ask where you get your wisdom or values, then you can be honest. But whether you say the word “Bible” or not, you can allow your leadership to be consistent with and an expression of God’s Word.
Something to Think About:
If you are a church leader (pastor, priest, elder, deacon, Sunday school teacher, etc.), how central is the Word of God in your work?
How might your leadership be more informed by and centered in Scripture?
Something to Do:
Talk with a Christian friend or with your small group about how your leadership can be informed, shaped, and reflective of Scripture.
Gracious God, thank you for the gifts of leaders that you give to your church. Thank you for giving to your leaders your good news as found in Scripture. Thank you for opportunities we have to lead in light of your Word, whether in word or deed or both. May our leadership reflect your truth this day. Amen.