In this message on leadership Glenn address some of the issues ignored in the pop church growth books. The Bible is the Christian’s handbook on what leadership means, not the secular business world. A good leader first and foremost must be a person of godly character. A leader that does not have godly character destroys lives. We can only give what we are and what we possess. A spiritual man will give from the wealth he has received from God, a carnal man can only give out of the flesh. This sermon will present the power that a Pentecostal leader should really possess.
National mourning erupted when Israel’s first king, Saul son of Kish and his son Jonathan, were slain in battle against the Philistines. When David and his men, who were hunted by the king, heard the news, “they mourned and wept and fasted till evening” (2 Sam. 1:12). Saul’s death inspired David to pen the poetic elegy, Lament of the Bow. Three times in this dirge the psalmist bewailed, “How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Sam. 1:19, 25, 27). The sword of Saul would no longer subdue the enemies of Israel.
If we only had the discernment to see the spiritual condition of a growing number of church leaders we would cry out like David, “How the mighty have fallen!” Many of our spiritual leaders have fallen in battle. They have grown emotionally and spiritually weary in the fight and have lost the strength to brandish their swords and wield their shields. Scores of others have dropped their swords—the Word of God—due to the pressures of family and ministry. Whole contingents of leaders have forsaken their sword thinking that it is irrelevant in this more enlightened age. They are spiritual traitors, anarchists against the Most High because they have discarded Biblical truths to embrace politically correct lies.
No matter what motivates spiritual leaders to abandon the preaching, teaching and ministration of God’s Word they have done it nonetheless. Consequently, the church-at-large is abandoning the Scriptures for a tantalizing array of fad teachings that are detrimental to the true faith, and at times, even damnable. This problem is at a crisis level in western Christianity. Since America influences the world, we are spawning an international, spiritual crisis. Like Israel of old, the church is prostituting herself with the world and spreading that spirit of prostitution.
As goes the shepherds, so goes the flock. When men of God courageously preach the truth then you will find the people being lovers of the truth. But when the shepherds forsake the Word, then the sheep will follow them to their own peril. We will now examine four issues that cause leaders to forsake the Word of God.
The pastoral ministry is emotionally draining, spiritually exhausting and physically taxing. This can cause weariness to seep into the very bones of pastors. The natural challenges of ministry in a fallen world is amplified in America due to our self-indulgent, individualistic society that produces a lot of mean-spirited people that take out their frustrations and pent up anger on the pastor (a good dose of repentance can transform mean-spirited people into lovable saints).
When pastors grow weary of fighting with parishioners and board members there are four different directions they can take: 1) They can passionately seek healing from Jesus and continue the good fight. 2) They can leave the ministry and go into secular work. 3) They can take another church hoping to find a congregation that is not as self-absorbed and contentious. Unfortunately, this is more than likely a fantasy. 4) Or they can accommodate the people by becoming maintenance pastors that don’t want to rock-the-boat or stir up a hornet’s nest of cantankerous people by preaching the truth. But this is a failure of duty!
If you asked weary pastors if they believed that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God they would invariably say yes. They would also affirm their belief in the orthodox doctrines of the faith. But their spiritual and emotional fatigue can cause them to water-down the Word so that they do not have to deal with belligerent church people. Such pastors need to become desperate for God’s healing so they are not found unfaithful when they stand before Him.
Burned-out and weary pastors need to be loved back into spiritual and emotional health by faithful saints. Woe unto the wolves and predatory sheep who chew up God’s pastors, who abuse them, attack them and malign them with gossip and deceitful scheming. Jesus pronounced “woe” unto those that cause others to sin (Mt. 18:5-10) and accused obstinate religious people of killing the prophets (Mt. 23:29-32). We would do well to remember that the Lord hates those who cause dissension among the brethren (Pr. 6:16-19). What John the Baptist preached is still relevant for all who will face the just wrath of God, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt. 3:8).
Some pastors preach watered-down sermons because they are cowards. They suffer under the fear of man which causes them to so abhor confrontation that they avoid the appearance of it in pulpit ministry, pastoral counseling or administrative duties. Pastors can become slaves to the people when their congregation gets deep in debt. Fear of people leaving the church and taking their tithes with them can drive a pastor to preach non-confrontational messages so no one is offended. Small church pastors and those facing internal struggles can also be afraid to preach the truth out of fear of people leaving.
While preaching at a large church on the east coast the pastor introduced me to the congregation with an apology for bringing in such an evangelist. It was obvious that he was terrified of the people. Some pastors are afraid of the people because they never had a spiritual backbone that caused them to stand in Christ’s strength in the midst of conflict or to preach the truth that the people so profoundly need. At other times their backbone has been crushed by contentious church attendees.
Cowardly pastors are to be greatly pitied. They find little joy in ministry because they suffer under the fear of man and do not know the strength that the fear of God gives. They will find when they stand before the Savior that their cowardice caused them to preach an impotent message that was powerless to save and transform lives. What a tragic condition for ministers to find themselves in when they could have lived and died for the glory of God.
The only hope for cowardly pastors is to repent of their fear of man and passionately seek to be instilled with divine courage. They have to love Christ more than their position, comforts or the praise of men. They must be willing to lay down their ministry, yes, even their lives for Christ.
There is a price to pay to grow a large church, and more often than not, the price is the forsaking of the truth. In such cases the pastor preaches accommodating messages that will draw a larger variety of people. The popular approach is to preach positive messages that offend no one and makes people feel good about themselves. But such messages lack the fullness of truth that manifests the power of God to change people for their eternal good.
We must understand that whatever it takes to draw people is what it takes to keep them. Draw people with a Christless, crossless, costless message and you will have a church full of people rushing to hell. Compromising pastors must continue preaching compromised messages to their unconverted people lest they seek another lukewarm church or expel the pastor.
Most of our nation’s largest churches are propagating a gospel of easy-believism, which is basically a message that we can have heaven while still living like hell. This anti-Christian message is powerless to save or transform people. Smaller church pastors and future pastors look up to the big churches as models to emulate. The idol worshiped is a large church and the truth must be scarified on its altar. Shamefully, a vast number of church leaders are afraid to ask if the sermons preached, and the church model they are using, is soundly Biblical. The answer will reveal whether or not the preacher and church is advancing the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of hell, for there is no middle ground.
Whenever the truth is compromised the results are always eternally tragic. By telling people they are “Christian” when they have not been authentically born again is a damnable practice. They are given a false sense of security when they are actually dangling over the brink of hell. When people do not manifest the fruits of repentance and regeneration you have verifiable proof that they are not saved.
Spiritually dead congregations are the result of spiritually dead pastors. The Lord will hold the shepherds accountable for all the souls they damned to hell with their worthless preaching (Ezk. 3:17-21). Their only hope is to return to the firm foundation of Scripture and begin to minister according to the example Jesus gave us. He preached through the power of the Holy Spirit and gave the people the truth that they so desperately needed regardless of whether they loved or hated Him.
The Great Reformation of the 1500s brought deliverance from many of the religious tyrannies of the age. As religious freedoms grew, a purer faith unfolded and expanded. Since the Reformation the Protestant church has splintered again and again. Some of this was necessary so that the life of the church remained vibrant and Biblical; most of the time it was the result of unconquered characters that caused division or wanted to keep the status quo. Occasionally the divisions were the results of heresies.
Not so very long ago most Christians could discern between truth and lie. However, in our day a growing percentage of believers are having a difficult time with this. The devious secular teachings of moral relativism and tolerance is creeping into the church and thwarting her ability to recognize error and speak against it. Now we are afraid to judge righteous judgment or offend anyone (Jn. 7:24). This is a grave deception!
Cults that once were known as heretical are now gaining acceptance among many Christians. Even blatant New Age teachings are being propagated by self-proclaimed prophets and teachers within the evangelical church. Divorce and immorality have become a plague in the ministry, disgracing the church before the world and the people in the pews are not greatly disturbed over it. So where is the outcry of the shepherds, where is their defense of the faith, where is their preaching on holiness, where is their protection of the sheep? Most shepherds are virtually silent on those truths that are of true eternal worth. Either they are immersed in the errors, afraid of the people or in love with numbers.
How have heretical doctrines and immoral practices wormed their way into our churches? Because the watchmen on the walls have fallen asleep, they are not defending the truth. Why are so many professing believers ignorant of what constitutes truth and lie? Because the preachers preach comfortable messages and are afraid to proclaim the unadulterated Word. The growth of lies among the people directly corresponds with the absence of truth that comes from the pulpits. There is a crisis in our leadership today; “How the mighty have fallen!”
Take “Christian” TV for example. Does the average viewer know the difference between what is Biblical and what is error? No, because the pastors are silent. People are enamored with smooth talking preachers that advocate a gospel of cheap grace, promote “new” truths or promise financial prosperity. People follow such teachers because they love the lies that feed the lust of their flesh more than the truths of God’s Word (Jer. 5:31).
I know pastors that have forsaken sound Biblical truths for heresies because they were emotionally moved by a new preacher or prophet. They were unwilling to examine whether what was being advocated was doctrinally sound. If they did recognize some of the errors they believed that a little bit of error was harmless to the sheep. When pastors are taken up with lies the sheep will follow.
Spiritual experiences can be powerful influences upon people. The preaching of truth should always be accompanied with the demonstration of the Spirit’s power. But here is an important truth—because spiritual power is present in a speaker does not mean that the power is from God. Many Christians have been deceived because they equate spiritual power with truth. This is a very dangerous error. The Lord established only one standard to define our faith and that is Scripture. When a preacher advocates errors we are obligated to question the source his power. If we are not solidly planted upon the Word then we will be taken captive by “every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).
If the truth has not changed then what has? Our willingness to base the entirety of our faith upon the changeless truths of Scripture. In this evil and corrupt generation our desperate need is for fearless pastors and preachers. It is also of paramount importance that Christians only sit under real men of God who soundly minister the Word through the power of the Spirit. When we stand before God He will not be impressed with our pet-doctrines, pop-preachers, comfortable churches and new experiences. The Lord proclaimed, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2).
Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.
Let us look for a little at the instruments and their success. Let us note their character and contemplate their success. They were men of like passions as we are, yet how marvelously blest in their labors! Whence, then, came their vast success? What manner of men were they? What weapons did they employ?
THEY WERE IN EARNEST ABOUT THE GREAT WORK OF THE MINISTRY ON WHICH THEY HAD ENTERED
They felt their infinite responsibility as stewards of the mysteries of God, and shepherds appointed by the Chief Shepherd to gather in and watch over souls. They lived and labored and preached like men on whose lips the immortality of thousands hung. Everything they did and spoke bore the stamp of earnestness, and proclaimed to all with whom they came into contact that the matters about which they had been sent to speak were of infinite moment, admitting of no indifference, no postponement even for a day. Yet their fervor was not that of excitement; it was the steadfast, tranquil purpose of men who felt the urgency and weight of the cause entrusted to them, and who knew that necessity was laid upon them, yea, woe was unto them if they preached not the gospel. They felt that, as ministers of the gospel they dared not act otherwise; they dared not throw less than their whole soul into the conflict; they dared not take their ease or fold their arms; they dared not be indifferent to the issue when professing to lead on the hosts of the living God against the armies of the prince of darkness.
THEY WERE BENT UPON SUCCESS
It was with a good hope of success that they first undertook the awful (full of awe; reverential) office of the ministry, and to despair of this would have been shameful distrust of Him who had sent them forth, while to be indifferent to it would have been to prove themselves nothing short of traitors to Him and to His cause. As warriors, they set their hearts on victory, and fought with the believing anticipation of triumph, under the guidance of such a Captain as their head. As shepherds, they could not sit idle on the mountainside in the sunshine, or the breeze, or the tempest, heedless of their straying, perishing, bleating flock. They watched, gathered, guarded, fed the sheep committed to their care.
THEY WERE MEN OF FAITH
They ploughed and sowed in hope. They might sometimes go forth weeping, bearing precious seed, yet these were the tears of sorrow and compassion, not of despair; they knew that in due season they would reap if they fainted not, that their labor in the Lord would not be in vain, and that ere long they would return bringing their sheaves with them. They had confidence in the God whose they were and whom they served, knowing that He would not send them on this warfare on their own charges. They had confidence in the Savior whose commission they bore, and on whose errands they were gone forth. They had confidence in the promises of glorious success with which He had armed and comforted them. They had confidence in the Holy Spirit’s almighty power and grace, as the glorifier of Christ, the testifier of His work, and the quickener of dead souls. They had confidence in the Word, the gospel, the message of reconciliation which they proclaimed, knowing that it could not return void to Him who sent it forth. Thus they went forth in faith and confidence, anticipating victory, defying enemies, despising obstacles, and “counting not their lives dear unto them that they might finish their course with joy”.
THEY WERE MEN OF LABOR
They were required to bear the burden and heat of the day. It might be truly said of them that “they scorned delights and lived laborious days”. Their lives are the annals of incessant, unwearied toil of body and soul: time, strength, substance, health, all they were and possessed, they freely offered to the Lord, keeping back nothing, grudging nothing, joyfully, thankfully, surrendering all to Him who loved them and washed them from their sins in His own blood— regretting only this that they had so little, so very little to give up for Him who for their sakes had freely given Himself! They knew by experience something of what the apostle testifies concerning himself to the Corinthian Church. They knew what it was to be “in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness”. They had no time for levity, or sloth, or pleasure, or idle companionship. They rose before dawn to commence their labors, and the shades of evening found them, though wearied and fainting, still toiling on. They labored for eternity, and as men who knew that time was short and the day of recompense at hand.
THEY WERE MEN OF PATIENCE
They were not discouraged, though they had to labor long without seeing all the fruit they desired. They continued still to sow. Day after day they pursued what, to the eye of the world, appeared a thankless and fruitless round of toil. They were not soon weary in well-doing, remembering the example of the husbandman in regard to his perishable harvest: “Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it until he receive the early and latter rain.”
Many a good plan has been rendered abortive by impatience. Many a day of toil has been thrown away by impatience. Many a rash step has been taken and hasty changes adopted in consequence of impatience. Attempts have been made to force on a revival by men who were impatient at the slow progress of the work in their hand; and seldom have these ended in anything but calamitous failure, or at best a momentary excitement which scorched and sterilized a soil from which a little more patient toil would have reaped an abundant harvest.
THEY WERE MEN OF BOLDNESS AND DETERMINATION
Adversaries might contend and oppose, timid friends might hesitate, they pressed forward, in nothing terrified by difficulty or opposition. Timidity shuts many a door of usefulness, and loses many a precious opportunity; it wins no friends, while it strengthens many an enemy. Nothing is lost by boldness, or gained by fear. It seems often as if there were a premium upon mere boldness and vigor. Even natural courage and resolution will accomplish much; how much more, courage created and upheld by faith and prayer. In regard, for instance, to the dense masses of ungodliness and profligacy in our large towns, what will ever be effected, if we timidly shrink back, or slothfully fold our hands, because the array is so terrific, and the apparent probabilities of success so slender? Let us be prepared to give battle, though it should be one against ten thousand.
There is needed not merely natural courage in order to face natural danger or difficulty; there is, in our own day, a still greater need of moral boldness, in order to neutralize the fear of man, the dread of public opinion, that god of our idolatry in this last age, which boasts of superior enlightenment, and which would bring everything to the test of reason, or decide it by the votes of the majority. We need strength from above to be faithful in these days of trouble, and rebuke, and blasphemy—to set our faces like flint alike against the censure and applause of the multitude, and to dare to be singular for righteousness’ sake, and to fight, single-handed, the battles of the faith. The sneer, the scoff, the contemptuous smile of superiority, the cold support, the cordial opposition, the timid friendship, the bold hostility, in private and in public, from lips of companions, or neighbors, or fellow-citizens—and to meet these nothing less than divine grace is needed. Never, perhaps, in any age has wickedness assumed a bolder front and attitude; and never, therefore, was Christian courage more required than now.
Men of the world and mere professors can tolerate the customary routine of ministerial duty; but to step beyond that—to preach and labor in season and out of season—to deal faithfully and closely with men’s consciences—to be always the minister, always the watchman, always the lover of souls—this is to turn the world upside down, to offend against every rule of good breeding, and to tear up the landmarks of civilized society. Ministers and Christians require more than ever to be “strong and of good courage”, to be “steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”.
THEY WERE MEN OF PRAYER
It is true that they labored much, visited much, studied much, but they also prayed much. In this they abounded. They were much alone with God, replenishing their own souls out of the living fountain that out of them might flow to their people rivers of living water. In our day there is doubtless many a grievous mistake upon this point. Some who are really seeking to feed the flock, and to save souls, are led to exhaust their energies upon external duties and labors, overlooking the absolute necessity of enriching, ripening, filling, elevating their own souls by prayer and fasting. On this account there is much time wasted and labor thrown away. A single word, coming fresh from lips that have been kindled into heavenly warmth, by near fellowship with God, will avail more than a thousand others.
If Christ’s faithful ministers would act more on this principle they would soon learn what an increased fruitfulness and power are thereby imparted to all their labors. Were more of each returning Saturday to spend in fellowship with God, in solemn intercession for the people, in humiliation for sin, and supplication for the outpouring of the Spirit, our Sabbaths would be far more blest, our sermons would be far more successful, our faces would shine as did Moses’, a more solemn awe and reverence would be over all our assemblies. What might be lost in elaborate composition, or critical exactness of style or argument would be far more than compensated for the “double portion of the Spirit” we might then expect to receive.
THEY WERE MEN WHOSE DOCTRINES WERE OF THE MOST DECIDED KIND
There is a breadth and power about their preaching—a glow and energy about their words and thoughts, that makes us feel that they were men of might. Their trumpet gave no feeble or uncertain sound, either to saint or sinner, to the church or the world. They lifted up their voices, and spared not. There was no flinching, no flattering, or prophesying of smooth things.
Their preaching seems to have been of the most masculine and fearless kind, falling on the audience with tremendous power. It was not vehement, it was not fierce, it was not noisy; it was far too solemn to be such; it was massive, weighty, cutting, piercing, sharper than a two-edged sword. The weapons wielded by them were well tempered, well furbished, sharp and keen. Nor were they wielded by a feeble or unpracticed arm. These warriors did not fight with the scabbard instead of the blade. Nor did they smite with the flat instead of the edge of the sword. Nor did they spare any effort, either of strength or skill, which might carry home the thrust of the stroke to the very vitals. Cambridge, regarding whom it is said, that “he scarce ever preached a sermon but some or other of his congregation were struck with great distress, and cried out in agony, ‘What shall I do to be saved’”.
THEY WERE MEN OF SOLEMN DEPORTMENT AND DEEP SPIRITUALITY
Their lives and their lips accorded with each other. Their daily walk furnished the best attestation and illustration of the truth they preached. They were always ministers of Christ, wherever they were to be found or seen. No frivolity, no flippancy, no gaiety, no worldly conviviality (friendly agreement) or companionships neutralized their public preaching, or marred the work they were seeking to accomplish. These men could not be accused of being like the world, or as men who, though faithful in the pulpit, forgot throughout the week their character, their office, their errand. Luther once remarked regarding a beloved and much admired friend, “He lives what we preach”. So it was with these much-honored men, whose names are in the Book of Life.
This article is an edited excerpt from True Revival and the Men God Uses by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889). This book is available through Kindle for $.99. It is a worthwhile book.