Leadership Lessons: Be Honest When Things Aren't Right

Top marks to John Marlow for noticing that 12 should actually come before 13. Maths was never my strong point...


Ok, maybe this is a provocative one. Evangelicals (like me) can find it too easy to sweep under the carpet things that aren't right because we think we are doing and believing all the right things. We believe the gospel. We are committed to the bible. We give our energies to teaching and obey it with passion. But...


Evangelical churches nevertheless can contain a high percentage of non-missional, non-active attendees who claim to be believers. Something is obviously wrong


We can give little attention to showing the love of Jesus to our immediate vicinity in practical ways. Something is missing


We can allow leaders to shoulder the responsibilities that actually belong to the whole church exercising their spiritual gifts all together, thus presenting them with intolerable burdens. Something isn't as it should be


We can set up structures that allow the least spiritual and least biblical just as much say in major church decisions as the most experienced and godly. We have misunderstood something


We can continue activities way past the point where they ceased to be useful for the gospel because they (rather than the gospel) have become someone's personal identity. Somehow they have misunderstood their identity in Christ and the purpose of the church


We can take living Christ's life and turn it into merely passively acknowledging the benefits of his death


We can turn the whole community being witnesses to the world into evangelistic events run by the few on Christian premises, in which we invite non-believers to step out of their comfort zone into ours if the want to hear about Jesus


We can let people's go for ages - maybe years - with bad attitudes, without ever challenging them for fear of causing offence. We haven't heard what the Bible says about church discipline, or are too scared of the consequences to do what it says


I could go, but you get the point. All of these things are wrong. They all indicate that something is wrong at the level of foundational assumptions. And they can all happen in Bible teaching churches. Merely being evangelical does not indemnify us against all kinds of things being wrong, but it can mean that we are so persuaded that we are doing the right things that we don't address them.


If we see things wrong at the level of symptom and can discern what needs to change at the level of foundational assumption but do nothing it never gets better. It only entrenches wrong ecclesiology, wrong relationships, wrong assumptions, wrong self-understanding. We effectively legitimise the wrong things by declining to address them. That's not to say we shouldn't be wise about what to address and when - we always have to choose the most important hills to die on. But if we get into our heads that merely being evangelical by conviction and teaching is enough, and don't also make every effort to conform our church life to biblical patterns then we can expect much of our teaching to be ineffective.


Be honest when things aren't right and don't ignore them. The church is God's amazing, supernatural means of declaring the wisdom of God to the world and the heavenly places. It is not good enough to simply let sub-biblical church go because it would be too challenging to change it. Honestly admitting that things may need to change is the critical first step to a healthier church life.