• Richard Thor Collins

As go the leaders . . .

As go the leaders, so goes the church. Peter Scazzero.*


Gulp. 


That’s a lot of pressure. But it shouldn’t be. After all, Christ is the head of the church. So what’s Peter Scazzero talking about? Why is one person’s emotional and spiritual health so important? After all, something amazing happened in 1517. Luther read Romans and realised he could go straight to God, no priest required. A person’s direct relationship with God was what counted. And that’s as it should be. 


So how can it be that the leader makes such a huge difference while at the same time it’s also true that the Christian faith is about a personal connection with God? How can both of these truths stand together? 


Here’s how. 


Nowadays, we grow in our relationship with God through many habits, practices and influences. We don’t just listen to our pastor, priest or vicar. Aside from the daily reading of Scripture, we listen to podcasts, we read articles and, of course, we meet with many other Christians who help us grow. That’s our Christian community and it’s beautiful. 

But among our human influences, it’s the church leader who matters the most. Bold statement. 


Here’s why. 


Human beings in organisations look to leaders. We create top-down models with a person at the top, because we’re wired to do this. It may well be that this reflects a kind of brokenness, but it’s now part of who we are. God works with us as sinful people, not as saints he might wish us to be. (Wow. That last sentence certainly packs a theological punch. Discuss.)  


To continue . . . 


Even when churches produce a ‘team model’ approach, supposedly following the early church, a leader will often emerge. As in Orwell’s Animal Farm, all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. One of the team will usually give a lead in a given situation, even if that person doesn’t want the title ‘leader.’


Teams don’t lead. Leaders do. 


We shouldn’t be surprised. 


The bible seems to spend an inordinate amount of time following the lives of Israel’s leaders. Then in the NT, after Jesus, we follow Peter and then Paul. The example set by leaders is right at the heart of the bible. Paul’s letters set out a number of requirements for elders and leaders. This is why the leader matters so much. It’s why leadership qualities and gifts make such a huge impact on a church. 


As go the leaders, so goes the church.


This is why your emotional and spiritual health matters so much. When you’re not healthy, the church will feel the effects. Overworked, stressed, power-hungry, petty, insecure, reckless, unwise leaders lead to churches with problems. 


But you’re not any of those, are you? 


We need leaders who will make a real effort to understand who they are. Why they make the decisions they do. Socrates summed up the entirety of our human need in this area with just two words: 


Know thyself. 


It takes time and effort. It’s no good simply avoiding the issue with a hearty ‘Oh, just get on with it.’ If you’re British, the stiff upper lip won’t do. It’s not navel-gazing or any of those pejorative terms indicating that we’re spending too much time on ourselves. It’s vital to the health of your church. Because . . . 


As go the leaders, so goes the church. 


This week, we’re releasing the first part of a talk by Marcus Honeysett, delivered to evangelists at All Souls Langham Place in 2011. Click here


*Peter Scazzero is the author of The Emotionally Healthy Church by Zondervan. 

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