Monday, November 26, 2007

Humble Leadership A Rarity

Recently, I was again reminded of the necessity of a humble church leadership.

In this age of American independence, it is quite common for men to assign themselves as leaders, especially in the church. Men, by force of arrogance, arrogate to themselves the office of minister. In turn, these erstwhile pastors start new congregations on the power of their personality, preaching or popularity.

But it does not stop there. Some pastors (even legitimate ones) take accolades upon themselves, asserting an air of authority in some specialized field before anyone has legitimately recognized them as experts. They readily assume supposed leadership upon the supposition that popularity implies authority (a common American error). To be a leader amongst leaders is always a temptation.

Yet, what if one were popular? What if accolades and leadership and the public limelight were offered? How should it be approached?

Again, history (within a biblical framework) yields fruitful advice. In this case, a very similar scenario arose in the early 1800s at the then famous St. Andrews college. Thomas Chalmers (a Scottish Presbyterian) was making great spiritual progress within that area. He quietly started a children's Sabbath-school, which in turned quickly grew in popularity amongst the families (Christian and non-Christian alike). This in turn, spawned more such schools and increased his popularity.

He was popular enough (through his engaging teaching and preaching ministry) that Christian societies wanted his face on their boards:

"Soon after he came to St. Andrews Dr. Chalmers was invited to become President of a Missionary Society, composed of Christians of difierent denominations."

Surely, he prayed; surely he sought advise. Yet, he did more:

"He would not accept this office till it had been offered to and declined by others whose [senior] official position entitled them to that mark of respect." [Memoirs, 198]

How many pastors today would take such an approach? Such self-effacement is rare today. Such high respect for those with more experience is refreshing.

The senior professors turned down the job and Chalmers' humility was rewarded. He greatly influenced the cause of missions through the legacy of his students, the
St. Andrews Seven.

The rest is history.


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