“We need more leaders like (insert name of celebrity preacher).”
I’ve inserted my share of people into that little blank, and almost every time it was wrong.
Now don’t misunderstand, the people I’ve put in there might be great leaders. I’m sure some of my heroes of the faith make splendid leaders. The silly thing about my statement, though, is that biblically speaking I’ve no right to say they make great leaders.
Did you realize that almost every single one of the qualifications of an elder can only be known by actually rubbing shoulders with that person? I can write about hospitality, tell everybody of their need to be hospitable, wax eloquent about the relationship between the gospel and then shut the door of my home to everybody except a few folks I can reasonably tolerate. And you wouldn’t know the difference. You’d assume that just because I wrote a riveting and encouraging and profoundly true article about hospitality that I must be living it in my own life.
You can pick about any of those graces in 1 Timothy 3 or Titus 1 and tell a similar story. You don’t have any right to say “we need more leaders like person X” until you’ve actually sat under the leadership of person X and watched him follow Jesus—not just write or preach about following Jesus.
Yet here we are in our local churches dreaming about what it’d be like if our pastor or leaders were a bit more like celebrity preacher X. I’ve heard more than a few points made from 1 Peter 5:2 that we are called to shepherd the flock of God that we have been given. Preachers aren’t being faithful when they daydream about a different flock. They’ll end up with miserable and bitter hearts and probably dead sheep.
We leaders need to hear 1 Peter 5:2, but I have to wonder if we also need to emphasize 1 Peter 5:5. There is a call here to be faithful sheep to the shepherd God has placed among you. I don’t think it is an accident that Peter especially admonishes the younger to be “subject to the elders”. It is when we are new to walking with Christ that we are more prone to being starry-eyed dreamers. At these early stages we dream big dreams (may this never die) and often follow leaders who give voice to our passions. If that isn’t your local church pastor, that could lead to difficulty.
Here is something one of my spiritual heroes has said:
If your goal is to love all Christians, let me suggest working toward it by first committing to a concrete group of real Christians with all their foibles and follies. Commit to them through thick and thin for eighty years. Then come back and we’ll talk about your progress in loving all Christians everywhere. (Dever, 29)
The same is true of your local church pastor. It’s not that we can’t learn from what other leaders are writing, nor that we should be unhelpfully skeptical of leaders we haven’t met, but we should do our best to celebrate and learn from the leadership of the local church pastor God has placed among us. And let’s not hold them to a standard set by a leader we’ve never actually met.
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