(Guest post by Holly Duncan. Holly Duncan works on the church resourcing team at North Point Ministries. Led by Andy Stanley, North Point works to create churches that unchurched people love to attend.)
We’ve all watched leaders implode. From the sidelines, these moments of collapse seem so silly.
Why would someone…
- with so much money?
- with such a good-looking wife?
- in his position…?
But the moment of collapse is just the culminating moment. Generally, what ends in a splashy mess begins as a much tamer temptation—an innocent email, a harmless choice, an honest omission.
In fact, the temptations of leadership may not look like “sin” at all. When we think about temptation, we think of big ones like stealing and immorality. But as a church leader, the temptations you face may be much more subtle. And fuzzy.
When we look at the temptations Jesus faced in Matthew 4, they’re pretty fuzzy too.
In Matthew 4, we drop in as Jesus has been fasting for forty days when “the tempter came to [Jesus] and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread’” (Matthew 4:3).
Did Jesus have the ability to turn the stones into bread? Yep.
And as a leader with some level of influence, power, and resources, you too could turn “stones” into “bread”—we’re overhauling youth group…let’s launch a ministry for that…if we just upgrade this… You can use your leverage to solve most problems.
And it’s not even that the problem itself was the problem. This was not a temptation to “sin.” Was bread a legitimate need for Jesus? Of course—he’d been fasting for forty days.
The temptation to turn stones into bread was a temptation to act independently of God—to leverage legitimate power in an illegitimate (non-God-ordained) way.
God had led Jesus into the fast; and Jesus chose to wait for God to lead him out.
This is such a sticky temptation for thriving ministries. We’re presented with a challenge or problem and we have the resources to immediately solve it.
- Singles ministry losing momentum? Let’s change the format!
- Sunday attendance dropping? We need a fancier building!
But could this temptation be reminding us that sometimes God puts us—or keeps us—in our current circumstances for a reason?
And though we can jump to a solution, it may not be the solution God has in mind for us…(yet)?
The temptation to act without God is subtle. And the way to conquer it is subtle too.
In Matthew 4:4, Jesus responded to the temptation by referencing an Old Testament lesson,
“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
What would it look like for our ministries to hang on “every word that comes from the mouth of God?” As teams, how can we declare our dependence on him?
How can we commit to wait for his green light?
And here’s the convicting question: Where have we already charged ahead, disregarding the timing or solution God has for us?
(Hint: Independence from God always results in slavery to something or someone else. So to whom or what are you (or your ministry) a slave? The bank? An overwhelming calendar? A sense of competition?)