Developing the Church in 2040
Once upon a time there was a little church who had an honored and revered church leader. This respected man carried the congregation on his shoulders. A few years went by and that leader deceased, followed by the dwindling away of the church only two brief years later. This is not a fairy tale. This story represents the sad fate of many churches after the patriarchal leader of the church passes away. Why does this happen? The problem may be more complex, but one integral quality of a great leader is the development of other leaders. Great men develop and leave greater men after them so the above circumstance does not repeat itself.
Consider four examples of leadership development from the Bible. The first is a unfortunate example. Joshua was selected by God and Moses to be his right hand man and the next leader of Israel. Upon designating Joshua as the next shepherd of Israel, God declared to Moses, “Set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd,” (Joshua 27:16-17). From this point forward a careful Bible reader will notice Joshua at the right side of Moses. Joshua accompanied Moses half way up Mt. Sinai when the 10 commandments were first delivered in Ex. 32. No later than Joshua chapter one, Joshua is highly respected by all Israel after giving an inaugural address prior to leading the fall of Jericho. The Israelite nation would go on to follow Joshua at his word, and at Joshua’s death it would be said of him, “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the Lord which He had done for Israel,” (Joshua 24:31). Moses success in developing a stalwart leader out of Joshua is evident from scripture. However, as excellent a leader as Joshua was, he failed in one of the key qualities of leadership. Joshua failed to leave another Joshua after him. Certainly, Israel was faithful during the days of the elders that followed, but Joshua did not develop those elders as Moses had developed Joshua, leading to the dark ages of Israelite history during the judges.
Other premier examples of leadership development are seen in Elijah’s tutorship of Elisha who would follow to be the most profound prophet of miraculous ability in Israelite history. Look at Jehoiada who would guide the young king Joash from the time of a young child to when he would reign autonomously on the throne of Judah (2 Kings). Jesus Himself selected twelve men to be his right hand men, and among those twelve, Peter, James, and John would receive special interest from Jesus as they displayed strong leadership abilities. These three were especially selected to go with Jesus on the mount where He was transfigured in Matthew 17. When reading the gospels and Acts, these three are mentioned more than any of the other disciples besides Judas Iscariot. These men made sure the church thrived during the deepest of persecutions.
Moses, Elijah, Jehoiada, and Jesus all practiced leadership development and intended that the church in 2016 do the same. Every congregation is faced with this task. Without leaders who practice leadership development, it may be said of the church in 2040, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” (Judges 21:25).
In 1 Chronicles 13 we read an interesting account about the Ark and the Israelites. King David and the people determined to bring the Ark back. The Ark had not been in use since before King Saul. The returning of the Ark would be a big celebration. The Israelites planned a large procession and put the Ark on a new cart. As they were going along they came upon a rough place in the road. The Ark began to fall and a man name Uzza held his arms out to stabilize it. When he touched it, he fell dead.
David had the same reaction to Uzza`s death that many today would have. He was angry with God. David reasoned that all Uzza did was try to stabilize the ark to keep it from falling.
Two chapters later, in 1 Chron. 15 David proclaimed that it was time to bring back the ark. This time David said that the Ark would be carried on the shoulders of the Levites as God had commanded. As David readied the men he proclaims in 1 Chron. 15:13 – “For because ye did it not at the first, the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.”
What does David mean when he says “After the due order?” The word due, in this case, means what is correct or right. The work “order” means mandate or commandment. So when David said they did it not “after the due commandment” he meant that they did not act in accordance with God`s commandment. Thus when God caused Uzza to die he not only punished Uzza for touching the ark but also caused the people to stop and consider if what they were doing was honoring God or pleasing themselves.
Today many departures have taken place in our self-gratifying world. Many continue to leave the faith. We still have the charge to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 3. It is sad to see many turn their backs to the truth. They turn their backs to the only way to God. They do not walk not after the due order.
Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the Life and no man comes unto the father but by me.” John 14:6 Paul says in Eph. 4:4-6 ” There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and earth and is the one in control of the church Col. 1:18. Yet many seem to think that even though they have good intentions, that they can improve or help God in the worship.
Paul warned of such departures and divisions in Acts 20:29-31, 2 Tim. 4:3, 4. In Tim. 4 Paul said that there would come a time when “they would not endure sound doctrine but would heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.” This can be clearly seen today. If you want to hear some so called preacher tell you that you can be saved by grace alone, you can have it. If you want to hear someone tell you that all you need to do to be in touch with God is send them money you’ve got it. If you want to hear that you don`t need to go to church or become part of God`s institution to be saved you can find it. If you want the doctrine of prosperity, you can find. None of these ideas can save anyone because they are not after the due order.
If we want to please God we must follow him “After the due order.” Notice with me a couple of examples:
Changing the number of drinking vessels in the Lord’s Supper is an example: Individual cups were invented by J.G. Thomas. They were first used in Putnam County, Ohio in 1893. The idea became very popular and spread rapidly throughout the country. As people became more conscious of germs and the possible transmission of disease by several people drinking out of the same container, more and more churches adopted the practice. This innovation is not following the “due order.”
2) Sunday school classes
The dividing of the assembly for the purpose of teaching is another example. The Sunday school movement began in Britain in the 1780s. The Industrial Revolution had resulted in many children spending all week long working in factories. Christian
The English Anglican evangelical Robert Raikes (1725-1811) was the key promoter of the movement. It soon spread to America as well.
Religious education was a core component. The Bible was the textbook used for learning to read. Many children learned to write by copying passages from the Scriptures. A basic catechism was also taught, as were spiritual practices such as prayer and hymn-singing. Teaching Christian morality and virtues was another goal of the movement.
These innovations, as well as others were started with good intentions. God doesn’t accept them? The reason is; they are not after the due order.
When we tamper with God’s design, we become like David, Uzza, and the rest of the Israelites. We must follow the “due order.”