Brad Powell: “It takes faith to get out in front and actually lead instead of playing to the whims and will of the crowd.”
As I look back on my ministry, this is what I see. Change, change and more change. Some for the good, some not.
Change has been the focus of my entire ministry through the years. It had to be. In a world that was changing so fast, if we were going to fulfill the mission Jesus gave us, I was forced to lead change. Because so many leaders and churches have failed to do this, hell and darkness have made many unnecessary advances.
It would certainly make my life and leadership easier if change was something we only had to face and fight through once. It’s not. It’s a constant. As I look forward, I see more of the same. In fact, since the speed of change is increasing exponentially in our world, those of us who are entrusted with leading churches are going to have to get better and better at navigating through it.
More than anything else, we have to get better at understanding what should and must change in our churches and what should and must not change. So far, our track record isn’t all that great.
The Great Inversion
As with religious leaders of old, we have the tendency to fight to preserve those things that aren’t worth preserving—our man-made traditions, forms, organizations and methods for living out and sharing our faith. We fight and divide over these things, though they have nothing to do with the fundamentals of our faith or mission. While, at the same time, many have slowly changed, watered down or done away with the clearly expressed truths and mission that God has given us. Those should never change.
I call this the great inversion. Most churches, pastors and spiritual leaders began with a passionate commitment to fulfill the Great Commission and Great Commandment. Understanding their times, they developed effective strategies and methods that allowed them to reach their world. But over time, they fell more in love with and became more committed to the man-made strategies that they developed than what God originally gave us.
They changed. But it wasn’t for the good.
For churches, God’s people, citizens of the kingdom of heaven to fulfill our God-given role as ambassadors of Christ in the world, we have to change culturally. We have to understand and connect with our times. We have to remain fluent in the languages, philosophies and driving values of the culture where God has planted us. We have to change to genuinely represent and share Christ in our generation.
Yes, we have to be careful not to be carried away in the current of our world’s godless ways. But at the same time, we have to be able to effectively carry and shine the light into their lives. We must, as those wise leaders and churches that went before us, understand and develop effective strategies for our times. We are not called to preserve the strategies of those who went before us. We are called to do what they did: develop the means for waking our world up to Jesus. This will, as always, demand changes—the right kind.
As I look ahead, I’m seeing the same needs that were necessary in our leaders and churches as I look back.
Without it, we’ll fail. The good news is that He promised to give it to anyone who would ask for it—believing. Check out James 1:5-7 and start asking.
If you’re looking for easy, you need to choose a different career or place to volunteer your leadership. Ministry isn’t the place for people looking for an easy life. It’s the place for people who have found Jesus to be their life and who want to share His life with the world.
It’s hard work to genuinely understand and, as 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “correctly handle the word of truth.” I’ve had to work really hard to separate what I’ve been taught and what I want from what God is really saying. It also takes hard work to genuinely understand our times and the people of our times. But to reach them, we must.
Without faith, we’ll never have the confidence or courage to lead against the current of what is presently accepted and comfortable to the masses. It takes faith to trust God enough to live for only His applause. It takes faith to get out in front and actually lead instead of playing to the whims and will of the crowd. It takes faith to change what must be changed and hold onto what must remain the same.
Looking back, I’m inspired by leaders who did whatever it took to make sure the church of Jesus Christ prevailed in their day so we’d have it today. Some we know by name, but most we won’t know until Jesus introduces us. Looking forward, I pray that we will be those leaders and churches, whether known or unknown, that do whatever it takes to make sure that His church continues to prevail.