This may be a shocking statement, but leadership does not grow the church. Yes, the mantra in recent years has been, “everything rises and falls on leadership.” But what if leadership rises and falls on communication? Specifically for pastors and those in ministry, what if church leadership rises and falls on preaching?
There aren’t many people who exemplify leadership more than Andy Stanley. It takes exceptional leadership to plant and grow a church to five campuses of over 24,000 people. Andy is a gift to the church, and the Lord has used his books, podcasts, and conferences to motivate and equip countless spiritual leaders world-wide. But even church leadership-guru Andy Stanley has said,
“If we don’t get Sunday morning right, nothing else matters.”
What Stanley and understands is a key concept that’s deeply rooted in the explosive growth of the early church described in Acts. The early church was multiplying at a rapid rate primarily due to the preaching and teaching ministry of the apostles. The Pharisees and religious leaders recognized the source of the catalytic young movement to be the preaching. Thus, they set about to shut it down by throwing the young preachers in jail, flogging them, and specifically warning them to stop preaching.
This experience simply added fuel to their fire and they continued to preach. What followed is a significant. The Greek Christians became upset that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. This was a major internal conflict capable of causing the first church split. It required attention and leadership at the highest level. So the apostles became involved. Luke records what took place: “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and [we] will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word’” (Acts 6:2-5, emphasis added).
Notice there are three things involved in this scenario: First, there is a leadership issue. Second, there is a social justice issue. Finally, there is the issue of prayer and preaching. Each of these dynamics is important and vies for the attention of the young church leaders. What they set forth is an intentional order of priority that is to serve as a template for the church to come:
1) The vital importance of leadership
2) The crucial importance of compassion ministry and social justice
3) The primary importance of prayer and preaching
Furthermore, it is not coincidental that Luke connects the continued rapid multiplication of the church to the intentional primary focus on prayer and preaching. He records the church leaders’ decision, then immediately gives the result: “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly” (Acts 6:7, emphasis added).
Putting leadership before preaching is like putting together a brand new nursery— walls painted, crib put together, stuffed animals, and blankets—but not having a baby.
It’s not that leadership is unimportant. Without leadership, what is birthed cannot be sustained. Without leadership, the growth will fall apart. Leadership is vital because it raises up those with the spiritual gifts to create systems that undergird the church for continued health and growth. But leadership is not the driver. Skeptical? Think of the top growing churches. Yes, they are led by great leaders. But those leaders are primarily great communicators.
The great preaching giant, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has said this: “What is it that always heralds the dawn of a Reformation or Revival? It is renewed preaching. Not only a new interest in preaching, but a new kind of preaching.” May we rediscover our primary calling to preach the gospel. May we rediscover new and creative ways to communicate the gospel. And may those be ingredients that lead to a reformation in our land.
You can read more about the primacy of preaching, as well as how to unlock and unleash transformation in you, your message, and your audience in, Interrobang Preaching: (re)Discovering the Preaching Secrets of Jesus (which can be purchased at the books website, www.interrobangpreaching.com, or Amazon).