Imagine being asked to run a business for a wealthy entrepreneur. You are instructed that you will have people in your charge, responsibility for creating the right atmosphere, and will be accountable for all of your actions. When you ask to speak to the rich founder you will be working for you are met with blank stares. When you ask to see the company business plan and by-laws you are dismayed at the refusal to provide such documents. At the end of your patience, you inform your prospective company that you must decline employment for how could you be expected to perform your duties as a leader without any communication from the top.
No one would run a business like this. No employee would put up with a job in which much is expected of them and yet no communication or direction is given. Yet, when the tables are turned, and the situation moves from the business world to the church, many Christian leaders are operating in just such a manner. They want to lead and help others turn to Christ. They want to be an active part in God’s mission to the world. But in all their desire and passion, they seldom read the Bible, rarely or anemically pray, and find communion with God a chore rather than a delight. This person is operating without the manual of Scripture, with no communication from a God who delights in communicating with his people, and will suffer the consequences of both.
Contrary to popular opinion, leadership in Scripture has far less to do with one’s abilities and talents and far more to do with one’s relationship to the source of all power and grace, the God of the universe. The power of any ministry lies in the truth of the Word, driven home by the Spirit, not in the abilities of the leader. As leaders, given as gifts to the church, our role is to be faithful to God and trust in His power to accomplish great things. The less communion we have with God, the more we will begin to rely on our own innate abilities and cleverness and the less we will rely on God Himself.
One Baptist Catechism asks, “What are the outward and ordinary means by which Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption? Answer: The outward and ordinary means by which Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are his ordinances, especially the Word, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Prayer.”
The Word of God is the source and power of our salvation and growth: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). In Baptism we are witnesses to an act which points us to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to whom we are united by faith (1 Corinthians 12:13). In the Lord’s Supper we commune with God and with His people as we “do this in remembrance of” Him (see 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Prayer is also communion with God. Paul instructs us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” (Philippians 4:6).
Of the means by which we are drawn closer to God, two of them, namely baptism and the Lord’s Supper, only take place in the context of the public worship of the local church. Therefore, it behooves us as leader to connect with God in the other two ways in which He blesses His people: through the study of His Word and seeking Him in prayer.
As Charles Wingard has pointed out, prayer opens to us the treasures of the Christian life. Through prayer, God:
- supplies the strength to resist temptation and to grow in Christlikeness (Eph. 6:13-20; John 15:1-8),
- changes the world (James 5:16-18),
- gives opportunity to confess sins and receive assurance of forgiveness (1 John 1:9),
- cultivates loving submission to the will of God (Matt. 26:36-46; 2 Cor. 12:7-10), and
- furthers the proclamation of the gospel (Rom. 15:30-33; Eph. 5:18-20; Col. 4:3-4).
Recognizing the premium that God places upon prayer, we are very foolish when we neglect it. As a matter of fact, Paul exhorts Christians to “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17). This does not mean that we are to be in prayer every waking moment, but that there should be no gaps in our life where prayer is absent.
Equally foolish would be to neglect God’s Word which is the way He has communicated to us. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the
mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). “If we are to live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” then surely He intends for us to at least read every word.” Read His Word and seek to meditate on its meaning for it is God’s revelation of Himself to us.
When we combine the disciplines of studying God’s Word and prayer, we come closer to the one who saved us and are better equipped to lead others. The closer we are to God, the less tempted we will be to rely on ourselves because we will be daily reminded of the sovereignty of God in all things.
Don Whitney writes, “Despite all his maturity in Christ, all he had seen and experienced, late in life (in Philippians 3:10) Paul wrote of the passion that propelled him: “that I may know Him.” What is he talking about? Didn’t he already know Jesus more closely than perhaps anyone else ever will? Of course he did. But the more he knew Jesus, the more he wanted to know Him. The more Paul progressed in spiritual strength, the more thirsty for God He became.With a similar thirst, the writer of Psalm 42:1-2 prayed, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” Does this describe your thirst for God? If so, be encouraged: whatever else is transpiring in your Christian life, your soul-thirst is a sign of soul-growth.”
What a wonderful privilege it is to be used of God to lead God’s people in ministry! But let us not neglect to lead ourselves first, otherwise we will be ineffectual leaders of others. We rest in the knowledge that God is in control and we are but His servants. Commune with Him, abide in Him, that you may know Him and lead others to His throne.