We want our spiritual leaders to exhibit competence, because we do not want to follow an incompetent leader. We want our pastors and elders to be spiritual giants able to leap tall buildings in a single bound or at least to walk on water or stand tall in the pulpit. Frequently, however, when competence comes to mind, the areas of greatest importance are primarily administration, charisma, public speaking, and the display of confidence. These attract and give a sense of importance and a feeling of security. A pastor once informed me that he spoke on a series regarding competence in the church. It mostly concerned how well staff and leaders performed in their ministry jobs
When performance in church leadership has prime importance, do we tend to leave God at the door and neglect many of the gifts He gives to us to lead the church? Do we emphasize performance to the extent that the power of Christ fails to shine through? Do we want people to get with the program or leave? Do we try to plug people into a ministry or do we mentor them toward using their God given gifts in helping others grow to maturity in Christ? Is performance greater than the person? From these perspectives, weakness seems to many to have little value as a contributing factor in church ministry. This is a huge drawback in two ways. First, it focuses on the flesh and what can be seen rather than on the Spirit and the unseen. Second, it neglects what God does inwardly and places little emphasis on spiritual transformation—the way of God rather than the way of man.
Years ago when I was associated with a Christian organization on a university campus, dozens of us would gather in a home to sing praise songs, listen to a speaker, and fellowship with fellow believers. The main leader of the organization and host introduced one of his disciples to the group. He said, “This gentleman knows passages from memory from each of the books of the Bible.” The leader commenced to give a Bible verse, and the man quoted it from memory. Smiles rose from those gathered, and many beamed with pride and awe. To them this man was a spiritual giant, because he knew the Scriptures. This was a seen spirituality and an outward display of self-confidence.
The message was obvious. What you see is spiritual. Righteousness depends on outward display rather than inward transformation. Leadership can make or break true spirituality by focusing on the wrong things. True competence comes with the price of losing oneself in the sufficiency of the Spirit. Paul wrote,
“We are not sufficient in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves. Our sufficiency is from God, who made us sufficient as ministers of the New Covenant…”
(2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
The ‘letter’ or outward confidence works out of the framework of self. The ‘Spirit’ works out of the framework of the Trinity, the all-sufficient God who called light out of darkness and gives light that leads to spiritual transformation.
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