From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev. Jason Cheung
To have a following is a weighty thing!
People gravitate to people. Charisma and character attract attention. Numerical follows on social media platforms can be a nice hobby, or a full-time, monetized income generator. But numbers carry a weight that can become a burden.
As Christians, careful discernment is needed to understand which of these two questions is foremost in our minds and hearts.
Who follows us?
Who do we follow?
One of the traps of pastoral ministry, I’ve been warned, is the track to become “a better leader.” The goals are admirable, and local churches can become well-tuned and efficient. I have nothing against organizing well, as administration is indeed a gift of the Spirit. (Right now, if you look at my desk, it needs some work-of-the-Spirit organizing!) But, administration – like all spiritual gifts – are mere tools for the building up of God’s church, for the glory of Christ. Leadership, however, in the church today has become such a principal focus that our call to follow Jesus has been blurred.
John Goldingay, an Old Testament professor, made this comment about this kind of obsession with leadership:
When my students are reading the part of the Old Testament that includes Nehemiah, they often want to write papers on leadership. Come to think of it, whatever parts of the Old Testament they are studying, they want to write papers on leadership. My heart sinks when they ask if they can do so, though I don’t ever expect them to understand why it does. Our culture is deeply preoccupied with leadership, and so people assume that the Bible must be preoccupied with leadership, because we expect the Bible to focus on the questions that concern us. Part of the reason the Bible itself is not very interested in the question is that it is more interested in what God has done to put the world right. If you like, it is interested in God’s leadership not ours.
Picture Christ’s church as counter-cultural families in which hierarchical structures are not what we’re known for, but rather sacrificial love (John 15:13). Imagine a kingdom-minded church where mutual dependence and sharing is the norm and not the exception (Acts 2:42-47). Envision a church where its mission is not first concerned of its own well-being, but that of the neighbour (Luke 10:25-37).
The way for our church to become like this is to determine which of these questions is top-of-mind, and at the centre of our heart:
Who follows us?
Who do we follow?
Jesus has inaugurated an upside-down kingdom where the poor will become rich, and the weak will become strong. And in his church, any leader of any kind must be the servant of all (Mark 9:35). So, strange as it may sound, if you want to be a leader in Christ’s church, stoop and serve.
And if this is too difficult to imagine, pause — and look very closely at Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Man.
He dined with sinners and outcasts.
He washed the filthy feet of his disciples, his followers.
He carried the cross and bore the punishment for the sin of all.
Why do we even care how many people follow us?
Our lives belong to Jesus, and our basic call is to faithfully live and speak and love in such ways that usher people toward Jesus. Not to gain a following. But to guide others to become followers of Jesus.
And so, let us deny ourselves, pick up the cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).
Our own importance is replaced with the glory of Christ.
Our way now is the sacrificial way of the cross.
Our only leader is none other than the Lord Jesus himself, our Good Shepherd.
Let’s faithfully follow him.