Leaders Repent First

One of my concerns during Coronavirus has been the speed with which some were quick to announce God’s discipline and judgement on various countries, communities and on the church in those places. As I have previously explained, it is correct to say that we continuously experience God’s loving discipline as believers and that this fallen world is under judgement in general but we cannot presume to announce specific judgements without specific revelation

I also have an issue with the claim because there is a reason why we have been hearing these pronouncements and that is that if the wider church are hearing your announcement of judgement then you are likely to have already had a significant voice and level of leadership within the church as a prominent teacher, speaker, leader and/or writer. As I have said before, it is not good when we leaders who are usually able to cushion ourselves from the worst affects of suffering like people are experiencing now are hasty to pronounce judgement.

Further, it misses the point that Jesus makes here

47 “And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”[1]

In other words, we leaders need to recognise that if the church has fallen into serious sin then responsibility lies first of all with us.  I believe it is possible for us to recognise both the beauty of the Church as the bride of Christ and be encouraged by signs of hunger for God’s word and growth in godliness whilst acknowledging our sins and failings.  Let’s highlight two examples.

First of all, has there at times been a  consumerist attitude to church? Does Coronavirus highlight the problems with pick and mix and teach us the awfulness of individualism as it leads to isolation? I think we can say yes to that. So, if that is the case, we as leaders need to recognise our part. Haven’t the articles we have written on our blogs and in our magazines encouraged something of this attitude? Haven’t we spent so much time thinking about how to make our churches competitive against each other as we seek to attract members rather than working together to reach the lost?

If some church members have become lax towards gathering, opting for days away when the sun comes out, then to what extent are they the example following church leaders who need to have a central role in proceedings in order to turn up and are quick to emphasise the need for time off away from congregations?

The other example is more sinister. What has been, or should have been one of our biggest concerns about the health of the church?  Well surely it should be around the need to have a culture as well as a doctrine of grace. A cause for repentance has to be the horror of recent abuse and bullying scandals and the recognition that rotten apples really do grow on trees.  All of us as leaders need to take some responsibility for that. We have lapped up the teaching and sought to follow the example of these men, failing to spot the danger. If we had a nagging feeling of discomfort, we suppressed it. And, there are those who have gone further, who have been aware of the concerns and accusations and who have turned a deaf ear, who have failed to ensure that victims got justice and have protected rather than confronted the bullies.

Whether or not we have been complicit and to blame, I think it is important to recognise the principle that as leaders we are responsible for what happens on our watch.

Taking ownership and accepting responsibility as leaders means that rather than being first in the rush to condemn and to blame others, we should be first to our knees in repentance for our own sin.

[1] Luke 12:48.

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