Ministry leadership is challenging. In fact, I think it’s harder today than ever before. When we think about why, we tend to point to the rise of the “nones.” But I believe the increasing polarization in our society is a much bigger factor.
In his inaugural address in 1961, President John F. Kennedy famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Those are the lofty, inspiring words of a politician, but they also reflect a sentiment that was prevalent at the time. We were part of something bigger. We believed in making personal sacrifices to achieve the greater good.
It is much less common to hear similar expressions in today’s political or social arenas. Even when statements are made about what is best for the country (or for a local municipality or school district or any other entity), the arguments are often curiously aligned with the speaker’s own interests. Unfortunately, churches are not immune to this trend.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “The church is the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not members.” Is that statement an accurate depiction of your church? Are decisions being made with a bias in favor of those who don’t have a vote? Do members willingly set aside their preferences because Christ’s love compels them to do so?
In the face of decreasing attendance and increasing indifference toward Christianity, many leaders look for the latest program to reverse these trends. And yet, as I think about the deeper trend, a leader’s primary role should be to confront the flight away from a gospel-centered, others-oriented love. Tim Keller says Christian love is “disadvantaging yourself for the advantage of others.” If more churches were filled with that kind of love, they would stand in stark contrast to society and would draw people who are looking for a better way to live.
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