Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Zechariah 10: Leadership Priority--Welfare or Warfare?

Zechariah 10:1-5 Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field.  For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.  “My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his majestic steed in battle.  From him shall come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler—all of them together. They shall be like mighty men in battle, trampling the foe in the mud of the streets; they shall fight because the Lord is with them, and they shall put to shame the riders on horses.

Spiritual leadership is challenging in these days, when the mantra of the average churchgoers is "what's-in-it-for-me?" It is tempting to keep the flocks from wandering by pandering to their demands. But the end result is that the sheep are confused and stopped going to church: "Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd" (10:2). The challenge of spiritual leadership is not asking what the congregation wants but what the Lord wants of his church: “My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his majestic steed in battle" (10:3). For the Lord, the goal of his pastoral care is not just welfare but warfare. His desire is that His sheep become "steed in battle." In other words, spiritual leaders who are fulfilling the LORD's agenda must lead the flocks into pastures and places where they can become God's instrument of warfare against the devil and evil, for "the Lord is with them."

The agenda of the Lord for His flocks here is defined as warfare rather than welfare. When a church is focused on spiritual warfare, spiritual welfare takes care of itself. It's like an army whose goal is engaging the enemy in battle. And all the equipping and training is for warfare, not welfare. But in the process, the soldiers become fighting fit and strong. Even, as a church, we are called to spiritual warfare, for we do not "wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). God-centered leadership is focused on spiritual warfare, rather than spiritual welfare. Spiritual welfare is the means but warfare is the end. Leaders should be leading the charge like generals into the battlefield to destroy enemy strongholds and setting the captives of Satan free. That is what leadership is for--turning sheep in the fold into steed for battle.

But what I've observed in recent years is churches becoming increasingly inwardly focused on spiritual welfare, instead of spiritual warfare. The church cry is "spiritual formation" not "battle formations". Such inwardly-focused mindset is based on the pastoral paradigm, viz., that ministry exists for members. However, the kingdom mindset is based on the missional paradigm that ministry is for non-members. By ministry to non-members, I mean seeking and saving the lost in Satan's kingdom, not just pandering to the demands and needs of members. Yes, it is a call to work and to warfare, not to welfare.

Many churchgoers (I may say, most churchgoers) expect their shepherds to focus their ministry on themselves (spiritual welfare) rather than equip them to win non-members (spiritual warfare). But the paradox of our faith is that it is only when we are engaged in spiritual warfare (giving away life) that our spiritual welfare is taken of (receiving life): "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered" (Proverbs 11:25). Like putting on the shoes of the Gospel of peace to make advance, our spiritual life becomes stagnant if we are not engaging the enemy through the proclamation of the Gospel. For it is as we become trained and exercised for war (like true soldiers of Christ) that we become fighting fit. The consumer mentality produces Christians who are spiritually fat rather than spiritually fit.

Zechariah 10:3 reminds us that the Lord our Shepherd wants His sheep to become "majestic steed in battle"--to become fit, not fat, to focus on spiritual warfare, not spiritual welfare. .

Father, may You raise up more spiritual leaders able to train Your sheep to become mighty steeds to engage in battle against the forces of evil to set Satan's captives free. Amen.

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