The Single Biggest Negative Trend Overtaking the American Church

Let me say, I love the church.  It is what Jesus died for.  If you don’t believe that, read the book.

I am afraid and ashamed that I have done my share of church-bashing.  My intention has always been to focus my comments toward that which obscures, redefines and robs the gospel of its amazing, life-changing, movement-shaping power.

That having been said, I’ve been committed to the American church since I was 18 years old. Through college, seminary, and graduate school, I have been a pastor with an unbroken stream for all of these years.  The church has saved me, loved me, transformed me, taken care of me in every way.  I am a happy pastor.  So this is not said with animosity or resentment toward anyone.  But there is a trend growing among the American church that if left unchecked, is unhealthy as any we’ve faced.

This trend is the deification of the concept of leadership and leaders.

Leadership is critically important.  Leaders are plentiful.  We have leaders everywhere; more leaders than we need, I’m sure.  But, as with almost everything else in life, really great leaders are rare.

That’s why when you see committed, visionary, sacrificial, uniquely-gifted leaders, they usually have gathered people around them.  And that’s a good thing.  God creates, calls and anoints His  man/woman, and empowers them to set the world ablaze.  The long list of those ordinary people who have done great things in God’s power is long.  If we knew the power of one life to change the world, the list would overwhelm us.

But what I see happening today is beyond the cult of personality.  It is leadership for leadership’s sake.  I’m getting all kinds of promotional material from pastors, leaders across the country about their latest book.  And with that book come CD’s, DVD’s, wristbands, perfume, chocolate, all kinds of cool stuff that convince me how cool and hip they are; none of which says much about the content.

Lest you think I am jealous (maybe I am) and resent the success of others (I don’t want to, though sometimes I do), this is much bigger than me and them.

Leadership is a tool. It is not a centric idea.  The gospel is the centric idea, the central theme.  The brokenness of humanity, huge concepts like redemption, reconciliation, and restoration are the epic movements that God has set loose on the world.

And what are we doing in America?  Trying to capture through a cool web site, Twitter, or any number of great, amazing tools available today in communication.  And let me be the first to say, I am all for communication.  But what are we communicating? Are we communicating the gospel?  Are we resonating with the broken hearts of people?  Are people coming and being fed, loved, healed, well-served?  Or are they coming and being made a part of our machine?  We need more people because we need a bigger machine, more systems, a bigger organization, a bigger platform.  You know the story.

Here’s the bottom line.  Leadership is a good thing. It is a God thing until it’s blown out of proportion and it becomes a disease.  Leadership is about serving; first serving Christ, second serving the gospel, and third serving others. Period.  Those who are motivated by money, crowds, or popularity are not new among us, but their voices seem to be incredibly loud.  Shout out to those of you who are in love with Jesus, the gospel, and broken people; who are willing to sacrifice everything to take the good news to those here in our country.  We are a great place to live, but a painful place as well.  We need the healing touch of Jesus delivered by the humble, healing touch of those He’s delivered

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