Right now, our church is beginning the process of selecting new deacons. Our nominating committee is also busy making phone calls, asking people to serve as teachers, and on committees. Every church has different requirements for leadership, as well as varying methods for selecting their leaders. Perhaps your church is also in this process of looking for leaders. What kind of leaders do we need in the church today?
In his book, Wind and Fire, Bruce Larson draws a parallel between church leadership and the flight patterns of sandhill cranes: "These large birds, who fly great distances across continents, have three remarkable qualities. First, they rotate leadership. No one bird stays out in front all the time. Second, they choose leaders who can handle turbulence. And then, all during the time one bird is leading, the rest are honking their affirmation. That's not a bad model for the church. Certainly we need leaders who can handle turbulence and who are aware that leadership ought to be shared. But most of all, we need a church where we are all honking encouragement."
The apostle Paul, arguably the greatest church leader in the first century, spoke of himself in the third-person when he said, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven…This man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses (2 Cor 12:2-5).” We need leaders of spiritual vision, like Paul. Like Moses, who said to God, “Show me your glory (Exodus 33:18),” we need leaders who seek God more than anything else. But we also need leaders who are humble about their faith, not exalting themselves over others because of their deep spirituality.
In verse 7, Paul says, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” We don’t know what this “thorn” was. Bible scholars have suggested various physical impairments. The point is that God was trying to keep Paul humble, lest he think too highly of himself. Leaders can have a temptation toward pride. But what we really need is weak leadership—leadership that admits its weaknesses and relies on God for strength.
Paul continues in verses 8-9. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’" What should we, and what should our leaders, do when we encounter “thorns” in life? As Paul did, we pray, and we pray, and we pray. But then we listen to God and receive His grace. We realize that when we are weak, then God is strong in us. So pray that God does something radical. Pray that God gives your church some weak leadership.