Take me to Your Leader

If You Can Find One Worthy of the Title

It is not a question asked by invading aliens; it is a tragic commentary upon our times when we are hard pressed for the quality of leadership necessary for our people to survive, whether we look to government, education, the Church or our homes and families.

Considering the slates for public office, we have fallen to a lower common denominator than ever before. For example, a well-known fundamentalist educator has recently recommended support for Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate because he is the best Republican candidate to defeat Hillary Clinton. Never mind that he has the baggage of being a Mormon, never mind that the people who elected Ted Kennedy also elected him as governor of Massachusetts; let’s just support anyone who can defeat the more dangerous candidate for office. It is beyond the lesser of evils when citizens can no longer find statesmen worthy of political office, because they have abdicated the principles upon which our country was founded and gathered more power into the hands of fewer “aristocrats” who will mortgage our children’s future, both economically and morally, to benefit themselves today. Their threat is compounded as more of the people in our congregations become increasingly dependent upon government subsidies for their day-to-day needs.

We find similar absence of true and consistent leadership in our homes and families, especially where there are more single parent homes and more absentee fathers. Homes broken through divorce not only lose the united leadership of father and mother, but also yield more autonomy and authority to the children who play one parent against the other to gain their own ways. However, even in homes where a nuclear family still exists, the world’s cry for equality has weakened the roles of husband and father to such degree that fewer men in our churches meet the criteria for pastor and deacons found in Scripture. All of which brings us to the problem of leadership in our churches. Not only are there many fundamental Baptist churches like ours that have no pastor, there are some that may never acquire a pastor because the reins of leadership have been seized by others who would treat a pastor as a mere employee of the church. Much like a resume that shows a person changing jobs every six months, a church which changes pastors too frequently becomes suspect of having problems regarding leadership in the church. The resulting tragedy is that good people in good churches can be deprived of the good leadership they need, and the whole church, its ministries and testimony in the community can suffer setbacks difficult to overcome. Likewise, it is increasingly more difficult to find those eligible or useful in our ministries as Sunday School teachers, youth ministry workers, deacons, child care providers, etc. First, we need to conduct background checks on all personnel before they can even be considered. Secondly, there are some still unqualified, even though they have never been charged with a crime or arrested. Even so, it is a growing irony in our churches that the unqualified are more willing to serve than the qualified, because the latter are either too busy with other things (often outside the church) or disinterested in service. Many of the problems in our churches, including church leadership, merely reflect the problems of godly leadership in our homes where men in particular seem unwilling or unable to establish biblical roles for husband and wife or parents and children. Beyond the challenges for good leadership in our churches, there is a similar crisis mounting in our Bible colleges and seminaries. We are in the midst of a generational change in the leadership of most fundamental schools, where the “old guard” is not only being replaced by the baby boomers and younger people but is also reflecting a different attitude and philosophy in comparison to the leadership once respected and followed by the baby boomers and younger people during their formative years. It is part of the reason why we see higher regard for the writings of John MacArthur than Robert T. Ketcham, or Rick Warren than Paul R. Jackson. There are many more examples, but consider the pattern revealed by the heroes or leaders admired and faithfully read by the newer generation. They are seeking leadership from the Evangelical orbit at best and from the secular world at worst. They demonstrate a higher regard for Reformed Theology than Baptist Theology. They monitor the market of church people more closely than the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. They draw from broader sources they now adopt as authoritative and trustworthy because of concessions already made through the cliche, “All truth is God’s truth.” The problem seems to be twofold in its evolution. First, there is a growing leadership vacuum in our fundamental, Baptist, separatist world. The politics and the pragmatism that we despise in government have trickled down into our churches, homes and schools. We have become masters of dialog and diplomacy that render us impotent to speak out about the issues that threaten the very existence of our churches and doctrinal position, lest we offend someone. Indeed, we have become more concerned about offending people than offending the Lord. At the same time, a new wave of leadership has made many among us slaves to these gurus who chide us for being too authoritative and too little “relational” in our ministries. We are told we must be more flexible, more adaptive to the culture around us, yet not absorbing it. These are the same people who chastise us for denominational differences because they are more about turf wars than Biblical principles, more about protecting our numbers and income than any irreconcilable doctrinal differences. These are the leaders who have presented their followers with the Emerging Village and the New Perspective on Paul as new alternatives to expositional preaching and established homiletics. Their reinterpretation of Scripture and/or their confessed inability to understand the revealed Word have actually created new and larger voids of Truth that leave far too much power to the creativity and compromise of its leaders who will lead the sheep to the door of Ecumenicism. We may bark loudly in protest, even threateningly, about the dangers posed; but our warnings will be quickly dismissed, because we have not established or sustained our credibility as leaders to the following generation. Secondly, what leaders may deserve some respect by the younger generation have been summarily dismissed as unknown, undereducated, unpublished or irrelevant to the post-modern world. The personalities and publications found more often in today’s “Christian” bookstore by our people have filled the vacuum we have left. Nevertheless, it is yet another irony that for all the quests for scholarship, for all the ambition to do it better than our fathers, the resulting teaching and preaching has grown more superficial, more cliched, more pandering to human hearts than ever before. For those who question the rationale for the existence of the IBFNA, who cannot see the need for stronger, Biblical leadership, for a clearer prophetic voice in an encroaching wilderness of religious static and noise that will speak out clearly and unashamedly for the Faith once delivered? The shallow, cowardly concessions we see across the spectrum from home to church to school must be answered by voices courageous enough to stand by their convictions, no matter what the cost. It takes leadership to challenge others to stand up and be counted rather than let them disappear into the crowd of confusion and error. Our fellowship offers no pensions, no guaranteed positions of authority. Quite the contrary, we are on more equal footing than any other fellowship I know. What we do offer and invite others to join is the quest to make a difference in our day that sets forth a Biblical standard for our families, churches and schools, and demonstrates how faithfulness to our Lord and to His Word bring His approval, regardless of the approval of men. Of the many things we have lost in American society over the last 30 years, we have lost a sense of character in the human spirit, where loyalty and duty are still meaningful and valued traits. Their loss has done more harm to our homes, churches and schools than anything else a corrupt society has thrown at us, because their absence has broken our wills to do what is right in obedience to Scripture and in honor to Jesus Christ. If we would be the leaders God can use, we would do well to seek His work within our hearts “...both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

Dr. Charles L. Dear