Fathers and Brethren! On Christian Leadership

“During these days we of the Christian Reformed Church are devoting thought and time to preparing for our centennial conscious that the Lord has blessed and guided us as a church, we are moved to gratitude and humility. But we realize also that the centennial has a challenge for the future.”

Recently the editor of The Illinois Observer made some thought. provoking remarks on this subject. “The initial and all-important business of the committee is to make the denomination conscious of its adulthood and the corresponding responsibilities on the American scene. Each member of the church, and more particularly those who lead, must realize that we can no longer use the argument that we are in our youth and therefore have little to offer…”

But what, we may well ask, is implied in assuming proper leadership in our churches?


Too frequently we still labor under the misapprehension that only the clergy are called. They have received special training, so the argument goes, and enjoy an adequate salary; hence having little else to do, they should witness and lead.

Despite our loud protestations that we have been delivered from the clergy-controlled life imposed by Romanism, we have failed in practice to escape its consequences. In fact, it seems that most people, including many elders and deacons, feel very comfortable if the minister assumes the full load of representing the church to the world around us. The sense of mission seems to be weaker in our churches today than possibly ever before. We give money in abundance, but we arc not eager to give ourselves.

If the church is not to toss aimlessly and erratically in the backwash of our complex modern world, as we have done too long and too often during our first century, we must become aware again of our obligations as Christian witnesses in our community. In becoming spiritually self-conscious in all increasingly pagan and hostile world, we call learn from the French priest Abbe Michoneau, who with other members of the Mission de Paris has devoted himself to bringing the Christian faith to the industrialized mass-man in western Europe. “We are not trying to patch up the ills of the world,” he wrote a few years ago; “we are trying to rebuild it completely. For that we need real militants (soldiers) who will fill their surroundings with the spirit of Christ, so that men and women will want to know and follow this Christ…The creation of this new and revolutionary Christian atmosphere depends on the common efforts of each and every Christian…Every man has his own little world to influence, to change, to christianize. That is what we must do as united Christians.”

This will demand wholehearted reaffirmation of our faith in our heritage. The Reformed faith can’t be preserved as a valuable antique in the china-doset of abstract principles. It demands expression in every area of life.

We must rededicate ourselves to living the principles which we profess, and this can be done only in a profound sense of our dependence on divine grace. Christ still calls us as he did the disciples of old, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”

One of the chief dangers that threatens us today is that of seeking strength in external organization. We establish mission societies and organize study groups, which all too often stifle the spark of personal responsibility by endless debates and discussions.

We need to get back to a new and deeper appreciation of the church as the body of Christ. Every living member is called to active, daily, relevant witnessing to the power of God’s grace. And elders and deacons together with the pastors should be willing and eager to lead in this witnessing. If the church is to be truly church, revitalization will have to begin in the consistory room. Every office-bearer and each consistory in this centennial year should face seriously the question of how we call make the members of the church more responsive to their high calling in Christ Jesus. The grace of God is a living, dynamic force. It sets in motion the whole renewed life of the believer. And to help our people give expression to this power unto holiness in all of life is among the greatest tasks and challenges which the office-hearers of the local church must face. Only then will our denomination be able by God’s grace to escape the stinging condemnation of the Savior to the church at Sardis, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead.”