Isaiah 9:11 So the Lord raised adversaries against them,
and stirred up their enemies, 12 the Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west, and they devoured Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still. 13 The people did not turn to him who struck them, or seek the Lord of hosts. 14 So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day— 15 elders and dignitaries are the head, and prophets who teach lies are the tail; 16 for those who led this people led them astray, and those who were led by them were left in confusion.
God’s people had been disobedient for some time and were paying the price. The Arameans and Philistines were capturing much of their territory – killing, pillaging, and plundering as they went from place to place. V.14-15 above makes clear a key source of disobedience stems from poor leadership provided by elders/dignitaries and prophets. When the leaders failed to do their jobs “those who were led by them were left in confusion” (v.15).
Many of you reading this blog are leaders, as am I. The church I lead in suburban Dallas just celebrated our 25th anniversary this past spring. It was a wonderful celebration for sure. Yet as we launch into our second 25 years I’m aware that the world is changing very rapidly and many churches are struggling as a result. Since things have been going reasonably well at our church over the last several years, there’s a temptation to leave well enough alone. But in my heart I know we can’t do that. Because our church is in a growing suburb with lots of economic activity, and new people moving into the area, we’ve been spared the brunt of the broad cultural shift away from church participation – but it’s only a matter of time before we too are caught up in it. The growth of the last few years has bought us time, but not immunity.
Therefore the leadership challenge is to encourage our people to take risks and innovate while we still have organizational strength and capacity to do so. Most churches I’ve worked with over the years don’t do this. Churches tend to wait until the pain of decline has gotten so great they have no choice but to try something new. But by then it’s often too little too late. There’s not enough life, vitality, and resources remaining to pull it off. Ever watched a church die a slow death? It’s not pretty.
The good news is that where there is change there is opportunity. I have no doubt the Lord has a plan for our future if we’re willing to trust the Lord in pursuing it.
Lord Jesus, the power of the gospel hasn’t diminished one iota, though the forms and methods we use to communicate the gospel have changed in a big way. As leaders we bear a particular responsibility to lead the way into the future. Give us grace to die now so that we might see your resurrection power in us. We pray this in your holy name. Amen.