The history of Israel and Judah points up a truth taught clearly enough by all history, viz., that the masses are or soon will be what their leaders are. The kings set the moral pace for the people.
The public is never capable of acting en masse. Without a leader it is headless and a headless body is powerless. Always someone must lead. Even the mob engaged in pillage and murder is not the disorganized thing it appears to be. Somewhere behind the violence is a leader whose ideas it is simply putting into effect.
Israel sometimes rebelled against her leaders, it is true, but the rebellions were not spontaneous. The people merely switched to a new leader and followed him. The point is, they always had to have a leader.
Whatever sort of man the king turned out to be, the people were soon following his leadership. They followed David in the worship of Jehovah, Solomon in the building of the Temple, Jeroboam in the making of a calf and Hezekiah in the restoration of the temple worship.
It is not complimentary to the masses that they are so easily led, but we are not interested in praising or blaming; we are concerned for truth, and the truth is that for better or for worse religious people follow leaders. A good man may change the moral complexion of a whole nation; or a corrupt and worldly clergy may lead a nation into bondage. The transposed proverb, “Like priest, like people,” sums up in four words a truth taught plainly in the Scriptures and demonstrated again and again in religious history.
Today, Christianity in the Western world is what its leaders were in the recent past and is becoming what its present leaders are. The local church soon becomes like its pastor, and this is true even of those groups who do not believe in pastors. The true pastor of such a group is not hard to identify; he is usually the one who can present the strongest argument against any church having a pastor. The strong-minded leader of the local group who succeeds in influencing the flock through Bible teaching or frequent impromptu talks in the public gatherings is the pastor, no matter how earnestly he may deny it.
The poor condition of the churches today may be traced straight to their leaders. When, as sometimes happens, the members of a local church rise up and turn their pastor out for preaching the truth, they are still following a leader. Behind their act is sure to be found a carnal (and often well-to-do) deacon or elder who usurps the right to determine who the pastor shall be and what he shall say twice each Sunday. In such cases the pastor is unable to lead the flock. He merely works for the leader; a pitiful situation indeed.
A number of factors contribute to bad spiritual leadership. Here are a few:
1. Fear. The wish to be liked and admired is strong even among the clergy, so rather than risk public disapproval the pastor is tempted simply to sit on his hands and smile ingratiatingly at the people. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare” (Proverbs 29:25), says the Holy Spirit, and nowhere more than in the ministry.
2. The economic squeeze. The Protestant ministry is notoriously underpaid and the pastor’s family is often large. Put these two facts together and you have a situation ready-made to bring trouble and temptation to the man of God. The ability of the congregation to turn off the flow of money to the church when the man in the pulpit gets on their toes is well known. The average Pastor lives from year to year barely making ends meet. To give vigorous moral leadership to the church is often to invite economic strangulation, so such leadership is withheld. But the evil thing is that leadership withheld is in fact a kind of inverted leadership. The man who will not lead his flock up the mountainside leads it down without knowing it.
3. Ambition. When Christ is not all in all to the minister he is tempted to seek place for himself, and pleasing the crowds is a time-proved way to get on in church circles. Instead of leading his people where they ought to go, he skillfully leads them where he knows they want to go. In this way he gives the appearance of being a bold leader of men, but avoids offending anyone, and thus assures ecclesiastical preferment when the big church or the high office is open.
4. Intellectual pride. Unfortunately there is in religious circles a cult of the intelligentsia, which, in my opinion, is merely beatnikism, turned wrong side out. As the beatnik, in spite of his loud protestations of individualism, is in reality one of the most slavish of conformists, so the young intellectual in the pulpit shakes in his carefully polished Oxfords lest he be guilty of saying something trite or common. The people look to him to lead them into green pastures but instead he leads them in circles over a sandy desert.
5. Absence of true spiritual experience. No one can lead another farther than he himself has gone. For many ministers this explains their failure to lead. They simply do not know where to go.
6. Inadequate preparation. The churches are cluttered with religious amateurs culturally unfit to minister at the altar, and the people suffer as a consequence. They are led astray and are not aware of it.
The rewards of godly leadership are so great and the responsibilities of the leader so heavy that no one can afford to take the matter lightly.
Source: AUDIENCE ONE