The Really Big Thing
As the year winds toward a close, I find myself musing about what really matters for leaders in congregations. I certainly know that, for most church leaders, a hundred items clamor for attention. Everything from a new health crisis for sister Maggie to a dilemma with a mission in the Congo to the repair of the HVAC system at the building to what to do about the decline in Sunday morning attendance … all of these things make their way into decision-making sessions in churches large and small.
All of those things matter—yet many of them could find resolution under the care of any number of godly and wise people. What is it that leaders need to attend to because if they don’t, then it won’t be done?
Paul makes a remarkable claim in the middle of addressing a bundle of conflicts and messes in the church in Corinth. Seeking to rise above the tumult of trouble and pointing the Corinthian congregation to reorient and refocus, Paul declares: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).
I think Paul knew that, whenever a community of people live and share and work together, conflict and trouble will emerge. He also knew that finding a center, resolving conflict, and plotting a path forward will come only if someone (or a group of someones!) intentionally seeks to think and behave in ways that are aligned deeply with Jesus Christ.
This is the big thing for leaders. Leadership in our congregations must take into account a disciplined focus on being Jesus-followers. Leaders must not assume that either they or congregations will naturally fall into a Christ-centered way of thinking and behaving. Whatever your role, the one thing that is absolutely necessary for the wellbeing of the community is a deep commitment to see others as Jesus sees others.
The second thing leaders must do is closely related to the first! With the eyes of Jesus, leaders are the ones who look for signs of God’s action. Leaders are the ones who refuse to take their attention away from God’s mission in the world, even when unexpected conflicts and dilemmas surface (and they do!).
Knowing Jesus Christ and paying attention to God’s movement in the world are big things. And our churches, families, and cities need leaders who live out those big things!