Earlier on this week I was privileged to give two addresses to the inaugural FIEC Theological Students' Conference. The subject was Leadership to the Glory of God. I will serialise the talks here over the next few days. Here is talk 1, part 1:
I take it as given that you will share with me the understanding that everything God does, he does for the praise of the gospel of the glory of his grace. That includes calling people to himself and joining us into the church of Jesus Christ. The reason churches exist is for the praise of his glory. A couple of verses just to reinforce that as we start:
Eph 1:5 he predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace – that’s the reason; he predestines to adoption for his grace to get praised
1:13 you were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. You were given the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession, to the praise of his glorious grace
Phil. 1:9 I pray that your love may abound in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ, to the glory and praise of God;
1 Pete 2:9-10 you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. He called out of darkness for a purpose, for his excellencies to be declared and praised among all the peoples of the world
That is our governing assumption. You are called to be leaders, under shepherds of Christ, for that. If that is God’s purpose for the church, then it is his purpose for you as leaders in it. The reason leadership is given to the church is to shape her to be what she should be, doing what she should do, for the praise of his glory. God’s eternal purpose for the church is that she shows to the principalities and powers in the Heavenly realms the manifold wisdom of God, according the eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord
And about our purpose as leaders he says
Acts 20:28: Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherd of the church of God which he bought with his blood.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of your task. The value of the church is defined by the cost of his blood spilled, yes to redeem, but to redeem for a purpose: that his glorious grace might be praised and that he might be worshipped by people of every language and tribe and tongue.
I hope in all your learning and study that great purpose has been at the heart of all the teaching and all your understanding of the task to which you are called. Where it isn’t you see some strange things go on in churches. Let me give you some examples:
In some places you see leaders who think the purpose is to give their congregation the benefit of their theological education and to be theological educators of the congregation. I have met, many times, people who go to good teaching churches who can tell you the facts and expound at length and intricate detail all kinds of things but have no joy in God
In other places you see leaders who have the idea that what they have been prepared and trained to provide to the church is their preaching skill. They spend all their time preparing inspiring messages and thrill people on a Sunday. And people turn up because its good stuff. But the purpose of the place becomes good oratory rather than being a community for the praise of God’s glory.
Sometime I hear people say this: “The church is God’s people meeting around God’s word. The absolute important thing is therefore the Sunday teaching. Therefore I can spend 10 hours preparing each of two sermons which is two thirds of my week in the study. Which, by a remarkable coincidence, is where I most like to be. My doctrine of the church has just validated me spending all my time doing what I most enjoy”
In other places you see leaders who think they should be social workers, or youth pastors or evangelism trainers. And their definition of leadership is always predicated on the understanding of what the church is. And sometimes also on or understanding of what we most like to do
I am a bear of little brain. I like things simple. And I do think this is simple, at least in theory. The clearest statement of purpose of the Church is to go into all the world, making disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded.
We are the community of disciples for making mature disciples who follow Jesus more and more closely and participate actively in the Matt 28 purpose of the church. Disciples are people who are growing closer to Jesus, grasping his grace for each day of their lives, experiencing God’s love, loving his word, enjoying his people, being worshippers. And being proclaimers of his excellencies with us.