If you have ever followed a man named Jesus and found yourself in relationship with Him, you might have wrestled with a few questions. Even more challenging is what one might do who has been tasked with the responsibility of inviting others to follow them as they follow Christ. How do you live in the tension of being the one who has all of the answers when the truth is you stay up late every night with all of the questions?
Being a leader means the ceiling above your bed has been painted by your stare late at night with confusion about how to answer questions of Kingdom living and leadership. Maybe you have figured everything out because the Bible you bought has made life and leadership easy, or maybe the Word has come alive and brought more questions than answers. If you are in the second camp, I have a few questions that demand some type of reflection and response.
Have you ever wondered if Jesus would go to your church? If He showed up, would you recognize Him? I wonder what the ushers might do with a poorly dressed man who talks to people in the lobby as if He might have something on His mind worth preaching? Would He be given the opportunity to address the crowd and read from the holy Scriptures in a way that would make your leadership team uncomfortable and your congregation lean forward in their seats, wondering what will happen next? Would He be given a seat in the back so the ushers could keep an eye on Him, or would He be ushered to the front row? If He were given an opportunity to speak into a microphone, what would He say to the people in your church about how they have applied thousands of years of Christian history to their everyday context? Is it similar or different than what you have already spoken when you have had a chance to speak to the people in your church? Would Jesus speak words that would fit into the sermon series your church is in the middle of? Would your programmed agenda make room for a Jesus interruption?
Have you ever wondered if Jesus’ disciples would truly be discipled in your church the way they were with Jesus? Would they find classes that meet the criteria of the experience they found by following their Rabbi to a cross of death that would cause them to question everything they learned? Is discipleship defined in any way in your context that demands people live with one another so they are forced into an accountable relationship that doesn’t allow people to live in hiding? Is there a Rabbi or Teacher among your church community that is raising up disciples who are becoming Apostles to unreached people groups that want nothing to do with the message of Jesus? Is your church producing disciples who have been so radically saved you can’t describe the fruit that is being harvested in their lives?
Would Paul find his theology sharpened in the classroom of your seminary? Would someone who is responsible for the death of others be given the chance of a deep and meaningful education, studying the story of God alongside those who have not been responsible for the death of other Christians? Could the writings of a sinner who has wronged those you loved speak into your life a new way of thinking about a God you thought you’d already figured out?
Would David be as challenged as a songwriter in your community of artists as he was in the fields as a shepherd? Are there environments that allow musicians to explore intimacy with the Trinity in places of solitude before becoming popular with a crowd of people? How are those who don’t look the part of “leader” given a chance to be anointed within your church? What role does art and creativity play in the hierarchy of gifts that are celebrated and acknowledged the way David’s brother’s attributes were assumed as more valuable? Are there younger leaders you are threatened by or older leaders whose legacy intimidates you?
If the ancient stories of the Old and New Testament haven’t triggered a debate recently among your leadership team about how you “do church,” then you aren’t studying the Scriptures with a holy fear. And to study the Scriptures without a holy fear means you have embraced a far deeper fear of religion and tradition than you have of the Trinity itself. Living and speaking the words and ways of Jesus to a world that could care less demands a level of wrestling that only a few are familiar with. The ones who have led their church this way can be recognized walking with a limp that is countercultural to the fast-paced sprint of pastoral normality in 2011.
If we aren’t willing to hold up the story of the people of God in the Bible to our own church, then we have become leaders who have chosen to tell a false story. We then become the guilty party that has allowed our broken church traditions to affect us far more than our concern of what our culture is doing to our followers. I believe our leadership will be defined by the way we wrestle with the difficult parts of Scripture more than how we apply what comes easy.
Josh Lujan Loveless is the senior editor of Neue. Josh has 14 years of pastoral experience and lives in Orlando, FL. This column originally appeared in the June/July 2011 issue of Neue magazine.