What is one of the greatest needs of the Church?
My friend Hal Perkins spent a few days ministering to our church. His influence has left a tremendous impact not only upon our congregation, but also in my personal life. Hal challenged us by saying that the Church doesn’t need as many leaders as it does followers. We need less people standing before our churches and declaring, “I think” or “I feel” or “I want.” Hal’s response to those kinds of statements is humorous but convicting: “who cares?” The real question is: what does Jesus say? The greatest leader is a follower. The greatest need of the hour in our churches is for men and women to move only at the impulse of Jesus. If you think about it, Jesus lived as a follower and therefore is our greatest leader. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19).
Followers remain in a posture of intimacy with Jesus and therefore, their every thought, decision, and move is guided by His manifest presence (see John 16:13). Followers can say, “In Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). Followers don’t make spiritual assumptions. They don’t allow emotions or feelings to dictate their actions. They don’t minister out of “good ideas,” rather they minister out of “God ideas.” Followers don’t need a consensus to do what is right because they aren’t looking to people for affirmation, instead, they keep their eyes on Jesus “the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus didn’t even speak His own words. He only spoke and said what the Father told Him (John 12:50). What if you only spoke when the Father gave you something to say? Probably more of our words would be filled with the Spirit and not with the flesh.
The early believers, churches, and ministries were established not by great leaders, but by great followers. The prophets and teachers were all together in Antioch “ministering” to the Lord (Acts 13:2). It doesn’t say that they were strategizing. They weren’t sitting around tables designing ministry slogans and alliterated mission plans. They weren’t talking about better programs that they could pull off. What were they doing? They were fasting together and seeking the presence of the Lord. They were focused on the manifest presence of Jesus; they were being followers, not leaders. In that kind of atmosphere the Holy Spirit spoke with specific instructions. Inspiration came from heaven and not from earth, and Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were chosen and sent out by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2-4). When decisions were made in the early church they did what “seemed good to the Holy Spirit” first, and then they made their decisions (Acts 15:28). The Holy Spirit forbid them to speak the Word in Asia during one of their ministry trips, and led them away from another city (Acts 16:7-6). By being a sensitive follower Paul was led to Philippi, a leading city of Macedonia, and a church was started there (Acts 16:12-13). My point is, like Jesus, the early Christians were followers of the Holy Spirit; and great followers make great leaders.
In Luke chapter four, I’ve observed three things concerning Jesus: First, Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. Second, He was led of the Spirit. Third, He functioned in the power of the Spirit. Perhaps the Church has become content with simply being full of the Spirit but we aren’t being led—moment by moment—by the Spirit. Therefore, we aren’t functioning in the power of the Spirit. Jesus said that we would replicate His works and do even greater things (see John 14:12), but my honest observation is that I’m not seeing a lot of extraordinary power in churches. To be very candid, I’m not doing everything Jesus did—yet. He said that I was to be exactly like Him (see Luke 6:40). John said that I was to walk “in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). I don’t believe the problem is on His end! Perhaps then, the problem is that we have jumped from desiring to being filled with the Holy Spirit to simply desiring His power, and the missing link is being led. Because Jesus was led, He was taking through the wilderness, through persecution, through rejection, through betrayal, and eventually to a cross. He never stopped being led; every moment of His life was shaped and fashioned by the impulse of the Spirit. As a result, He functioned with amazing power.
We’ve all been commissioned to preach the gospel, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons, and even raise the dead (Matthew 10:7-8). Additionally, we’ve all been commissioned to raise-up followers (disciples) who will replicate Jesus (see Matt. 28:19-20). But I don’t believe that we will fulfill the commission accounts with only better leadership strategies. I believe that we will do what Jesus did, and even greater, when we become better followers. By that I mean that we must remain in a posture of intimacy with Jesus; we must remain seated with Christ in heavenly places (see Eph. 2:6). He’s inside each of us, so every thought must be taken captive and brought to Him until we have the mind of Christ (see 2 Cor. 10:5; 1 Cor. 2:16). We must learn to be led moment by moment throughout our days following every impulse and direction of the Holy Spirit. And if we’re filled with the Holy Spirit and being led by the Spirit, we’ll most certainly minister in the power of the Spirit.
Become a better leader by being a better follower.
Lead us, guide us, and speak to us. Our lives belong to you, Jesus. Our desire is to be a better follower of you. Possess us and live through us every moment of our days, amen.