The Leadership Crisis and the Church

John ArmstrongRenewal

Is there really a crisis of confidence in leadership throughout America? Polls say there is and anecdotal evidence is abundant. The Center for Public Leadership/U.S. News survey says the rise in lack of confidence in America’s leadership is up 7% from last year. Nearly 80% of us believe the country will decline unless we get better leaders soon. The president’s numbers are very bad, but those for congress are much worse. And most people think that we are moving, as a nation, in a negative direction. When asked to compare things to twenty years ago most Americans believe that we are in far worse shape today.

When the type of leaders are separated by various categories it becomes even more interesting. The highest level of confidence is in military leaders, followed by medical leaders and then the Supreme Court. Religious leaders rank fourth and at the bottom of the fourteen categories listed are the media and entertainers. Both liberals and conservatives responded similarly to many of the same questions when it came to the question of confidence in leadership. 

First question: Does the Church, at least in general, have a high level of confidence in its leaders or does it reflect these cultural trends? I think it is the latter from what I’ve seen. It doesn’t much matter what the theology is of the particular church either. (Sometimes the more rigid the theological position the more likely it is that the church as a social and spiritual system will break down.) Churches, except in places where huge personalities are the rule in some mega-churches, distrust their leadership in high numbers. This has led to an all-out crisis in most congregations, which I see almost every week in personal ways, and it leads many to change churches regularly because they do not support, or have confidence in, their pastor(s), elders, deacons or church council.

Second question: How do we fix this problem? A lot of simplistic solutions come to mind but in the end the only acceptable answer is to somehow restore confidence in the supremacy of Christ over all things. I expect this would come about only when churches are truly renewed by the Word and the Spirit in power. So long as we do not believe this is what is really needed then the problem will likely only grow worse. We are in deep trouble and most of us do not even know it. We are far more interested in self-help solutions, kids programs and new buildings than in making Christ supreme over the life of our congregation. Pastors who undertake an effort to lead churches in this direction are usually in for real opposition. The whole business is a lose-lose proposition unless the Holy Spirit intervenes. I have never seen such spiritual dullness and foolishness in thirty-five years of public ministry.