For the last couple of months, several guys that ride from our church have joined in with the biker group from another church, and the motley crew in the second pic above depicts us on one of those rides. But the most recent, a few weeks ago, added an important spiritual lesson to the great companionship on a scenic ride to the town of Ramona. By the way, names will be changed to protect the guilty. ;)
The leader picked out a route ahead of time, one he’d not yet ridden, entered it on his GPS, and off we went, 4 Harleys and 3 Hondas. In the hills outside town he approached an intersection and went straight. One followed, the other 5 stopped, wondering why he’d done that, and pulled over to the side to wait. Why? Well, most of us had been on that road, and ALL saw the sign “No Outlet” on the straight route. After waiting probably 5 minutes we sent a rider to find our lost leader, and Howard soon joined us with a grin, “My GPS was slow in telling me to turn left.” Well, he’s a football coach, so we let the sign slide. Not. After all, we are bikers. Not a lot of mercy at times.
In life, our leaders will often make mistakes, take us on dead ends or the wrong route. Two recent examples include the failure of the leadership at the Willow Creek church, and the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church to adequately listen to claims of sexual abuse. So how do we follow flawed leaders? And being human, all leaders possess flaws—in differing degrees. Let’s explore three suggestions.
First, respect their leadership roles and the gifts that brought them to that. This doesn’t require blind obedience—most of us stopped when Howard made the wrong turn. But our attitude should be supportive, “Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery” (Hebrews 13:17, The Message).
Second, evaluate how serious the mistake is. Minor ones, like missing a turn, most methods and matters of opinion, usually we can just go along for the sake of unity. But for serious ones, like with Willow Creek and the abuse in the Catholic church, let’s confront it. Don’t just leave. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Galatians 6:1).
Notice the goal—restoration. Confession and repentance. When that occurs, we move on together. Wisely, realizing healing can take time. But if that change doesn’t come, then follow the directions of your GPS: “Recalculating.”
Third, a word to leaders. If your followers don’t follow, follow their actions enough to be aware of that. Find out why. It may be them, or it may be you.
Leaders have a vital importance in the church, but we don’t blindly follow. Why? We stand, as individuals, at the judgment seat of God.
Kick Starting the Application
Think of a time a church leader took a wrong turn, either personally or with the church. What was your response—did you ignore it or overreact or do it well? How could you have dealt with it more effectively?