Saturday, February 04, 2006

Leadership for God's People

Note: This is the concluding section of a sermon for this Sunday, 5 February 2006, on 1 Timothy 3:1-7. If you would like to hear the sermon in its entirety, click here.

Having served on presbytery candidate committees as well as interviewing faculty candidates for the seminary, one of the questions that inevitably gets asked is this: “Is there any matter that would concern us if we knew about it, even if we have failed to ask you about it specifically?”

One man answered this well—he said, “If you were to know all that is in my heart, and the numerous ways that I sin against the Lord, against my family, then perhaps you would be concerned. But God is greater than my heart.”

And this is our only hope, our only place to stand as leaders in Christ’s church—that the God who knows me inside and out no longer sees me against a checklist of laws, a standard of perfection—he no longer condemns me. Rather, he sees me, the chief of sinners, saved by his overflowing grace, faith, and love in Jesus (cf. 1 Timothy 1:14).

The only way church leadership can be a noble task is when we see ourselves as God sees us: united to Christ, righteous in him, holy in his sight, an adopted son, and glorious. Otherwise, we will be undone.

But the other temptation is this: to demand far more of our leaders than they can ever deliver. We all are tempted to compare our leaders to some other standard of perfection, some other esteemed pastor or elder. What we have to remember is that there is only one Bryan Chapell, one George Robertson, one Skip Ryan, one Tim Keller, (thankfully) one Sean Lucas. God created each of his leaders—each elder, each pastor—with specific gifts and strengths: but we are all men, not Supermen.

A song which I’ve had on heavy replay on my iPod this week is one by Five for Fighting. The song is called “Superman,” and it is written from his own perspective:
I can’t stand to fly;
I’m not that naïve
I’m just out to find;
The better part of me

I’m more than a bird...i’m more than a plane
More than some pretty face beside a train
It’s not easy to be me

It may sound absurd...but don’t be naïve
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed...but won’t you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
It’s not easy to be me

Up, up and away...away from me
It’s all can all sleep sound tonight

I can’t stand to fly;
I’m not that naïve
Men weren’t meant to ride
With clouds between their knees

I’m only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me

It is easy for us to look at our leaders and to think of them as “Supermen.” And it is easy for us to long for leaders who will be bullet-proof or omni-competent. But there are no Supermen, only men who can’t stand to fly, who bleed, who dream, and who feel awfully silly sometimes.

Rather, the leaders that God gives us, the leaders that God calls upon us to recognize, are men: men who are honest enough to make mistakes, to fail, to falter at times. Men who recognize themselves to be sinners, yea the chief of sinners. And yet these leaders are men in which Jesus Christ has displayed his perfect patience as a Gospel example to the whole world—that God can redeem sinners, can transform them inside out, can make them worthy of service, can make them “above reproach” and instruments “useful to the master of the house” (2 Timothy 2:21).

And the result is this: as God's leaders care and shepherd and teach and love God's people, we hear God’s Word, love God more deeply and thoroughly and passionately, and love each other with godly passion and intensity for God's glory and the world's good.


Anonymous said...


good words- to a man who at times pretends to be a superman and at times believes he is- only to be reminded that he is merely the joker and often the wicked lex luther.

Richard A. Bailey said...

Mixing villains here a little bit, aren't we? At least he didn't claim to be Magneto or Kraven the Hunter in a DC world.

Seriously, though, I too thought these were great words, Sean. Thanks for sharing them with us, as well as with your flock.