Fighting leaders! Really? Isn’t fighting out of harmony with humility, the Golden Rule, and turn the other cheek taught by Jesus? Yes, if physical abuse and harm are being emphasized. If we are speaking about spiritual fighting, no.
The Scriptures use fighting and fight as metaphors to describe the spiritual warfare and battles Christians are perpetually engaged in. A champion fighter in the early church, the apostle Paul, wrote these words to a young preacher named, Timothy. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were called and have confessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate” (1 Timothy 6:12).
In the last months of his life and end of his fighting, the old warrior, Paul, wrote: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness…” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).
It was the apostle Paul who wrote that every Christian is a soldier in the army of Christ, thus a fighter: “You, therefore, must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3, 4).
To the soldiers of Christ in Ephesus the apostle Paul wrote a dress code, weapon requirement, and fight plan for Christians (cf. Ephesians 6:10-20).
Now that we have seen that spiritual fighting is commanded and illustrate in the Bible, I want to share some applications I believe all church leaders need to fight.
As we noted in Paul’s remarks in 1 Timothy 6:12, we must “fight the good fight of faith.” This references the “faith that justifies” (Romans 5:1); the faith we must defend (Jude 3); the faith we must live unto death (Revelation 2:10; the faith we must walk by (2 Corinthians 4:7); and the faith without which we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Leaders must fight mediocrity. Whatever our hands find to do we must do it with all our might (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:10). We live in a world where the tendency is for workers to only do enough to get by and keep the boss off their backs. Christian leaders must constantly strive for the best. Jesus wasn’t a mediocre leader; the Gospel is not a mediocre message, and the church isn’t a mediocre social club. We are a highly skilled army giving our all for the Commander and chief.
Leaders must fight resistance to change. While we must not change the teaching of Scriptures that are rightly interpreted by sound hermeneutical rules, we must not let our commitment to traditions and expediencies be stronger and more binding that a “thus saith the Lord” (Read John 12:48). The methods of a bygone era, not matter how effective they might have been, aren’t working today. I will reluctantly quote it again: “Doing the same old things over and over expecting to get different results each time, is a sign of insanity.”
Leaders must fight the reluctance, and in some cases fear, to add new leaders to the leadership team. Have you noticed two things: (1) all the present leaders are getting older? (2) and one day there will be a need to fill their shoes? When the Titanic is sinking it’s too late to select and train a new captain or deck hands. Start a training and mentoring program when you don’t need new leaders so that when you do they will be ready to step up to the plate.
Leaders need to fight being influenced by all the negativism in the world, as well as that which exists in some congregations. A leader’s attitude is a major factor in his success or failure as a leader. Read Numbers chapter 13 for a classic and sad example of how the influence of 10 spies can halt the work of God and bring “wilderness wanderings” as punishment upon the people. Dare to have the “attitude of Christ” (Philippians 2:4-9). The Book of Acts is called Acts for a reason. Why do you suppose it received this designation?
Leaders need to fight their pride and ego. Some leaders are like store bought cakes relative to their minds already being baked in a mold and ready for serving. Like the defenders of Edom, some leaders think their way is the only right way, but the “the pride of their hearts deceive them” (Obadiah 3). Many are like the leaders who once said sarcastically, “One time I thought I was wrong but it turned out to be a mistake.” Leaders who lead effectively have open minds and readily admit when they are wrong. They love the truth and have no fear of being exposed to it; in fact, they seek it (cf. proverbs 23:23; John 8:32, 36).
Leaders need to fight busyness and burnout. It is encouraging to see leaders work with zeal and commitment. However, here is a truth. Whatever a leader is going to do, or is doing, for the Lord and His church, he must do it in the one body he will always have. Stress has been identified as a major contributor to numerous health issues; even death (Read my book, Preventing Ministry Burnout, amazon.com). Jesus set the example of getting away to rest (cf. Mark 6:30, 32).
Leaders need to fight neglecting their families. How sad to save the whole world and lose your own family. How sad to help other people with their problems but neglect helping you own family members. Because of neglect, many children of church leaders lead the church after turning 18. Some refuse to accept leadership roles because of what they saw growing up at home. A leader’s first mission field is in his own home. Your biggest leadership challenge is within the four walls of the home.
These eight areas leaders need to fight are only the tip of the iceberg Take a moment and think of several more. Which is the major one that you need to fight?