Dear pastors of churches and facilitators of fellowship groups,
This week marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Though it has been 50 years since his tragic death, Dr. King’s influence for good in the world continues on. That’s how gifted he was in his leadership of the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Gifted leadership is vital in all places, and that includes the church. I’ve had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with several internationally prominent church leaders at conferences. Though I’ve found them to be gifted strategic thinkers, what had impressed me most is the genuine humility they show as devoted servants of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A common theme I’ve heard from several of these leaders is that flourishing churches are led by people with the spiritual gift of leadership. They also frequently note that this leadership is provided by a team of brothers and sisters who prayerfully give their churches vision, strategy and inspiration. Together they see the big picture, then help the other members find meaningful places in the ministry of Jesus Christ in the context of that vision. That they embrace this approach to leadership should come as no surprise—it’s the same one the apostle Paul advocated in the letter he wrote from prison in Rome to the church at Ephesus:
Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift… He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. (Ephesians 4:7b, 11-13, The Message Bible)
Our calling as church leaders today is to equip all the members of the church, so that, in harmony with Jesus, we minister together in ways that reflect how the church functioned as it emerged on the Day of Pentecost:
That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved. (Acts 2:41-47, The Message Bible)
The Acts 2 church was a place (environment) where believers exemplified community at the deepest level—caring for one another, listening to each other, praying together. All this activity centered on their communion with the triune God, informed and shaped by the teachings of Jesus, transmitted by his apostles. This church was a powerful example of God’s transforming power, with new members being added daily.
What we see in Acts 2 is a vision for healthy church—one we desire for all our churches and fellowship groups. It’s a vision toward which we want all our pastors and facilitators to lead. Concerning that leadership, while we encourage the utilization of leadership teams within our congregations, it’s important to realize that each team needs a primary leader—a faithful, available, enthusiastic and gifted person who will:
- Keep the team focused on mission.
- Make sure the right people with the right gifts and right talents are in the right positions.
- Maximize the contribution of each team member.
- Evenly distribute the load so that morale stays high and burnout stays low.
- Facilitate communication so that all team members remain in the information loop.
- Assess and raise the level of community within the team.
To each of our church pastors and fellowship group facilitators I offer this challenge: Dear brother or sister, will you follow through on your calling to equip, empower and release the saints into the present-day ministry of Jesus through his body, the church? Will you own the leadership charge you have been given to help your members discover and develop their spiritual gifts? Will you then help them find meaningful ways in which those gifts can be deployed so that your congregation is making a difference in the world?
Please know that along with this challenge comes continuing high support from GCI’s Home Office staff and your regional pastor (in the U.S.) or regional or national director (elsewhere). We are committed to resourcing, encouraging and otherwise supporting you as you pursue your important leadership calling within the body of Christ.
May God bless GCI with many healthy, flourishing churches,
Greg Williams, GCI Vice President