Well finally, my last entry on Christian leadership for a while. There is just one more element that I wanted to address before bringing this topic to a close: the big hindrance. What is behind the scarcity of genuine leadership in our culture today, and even more critically, the lack of spiritual leadership in the church? What is inhibiting men from stepping up and leading their families, congregations, and denominations? Peel away the convoluted layers of excuses, and I believe at the core we find fear. Men are fearful to be strong leaders in our society, and more poignantly, in the church.
Now obviously I'm speaking in general terms. There are many tremendous men within our ranks. Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie, John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, Ravi Zacharias, Billy Graham, and Franklin Graham are just a few examples of excellent Christian leadership. No doubt there are thousands more. But for every one of these biblical leaders, there is a disproportionate population of timid Christian men who won't lead, even pastors and elders who will not stand with the Bible in opposition to popular culture. They live in terror of controversy and negative publicity. Public sentiment rules their hearts and lives. They have a dreadful fear of being called "hypocrite" for some passed failure or transgression. There is simply too much to lose by opposing the world. I call this the "Pontius Pilate Syndrome."
Governor Pontius Pilate was no ordinary man. One did not ascend the levels of Roman political hierarchy easily. The Romans prized intelligence, capability, and grit. Pilate proved himself to be no dummy as he immediately recognized the Jewish leaders' ruse in presenting Jesus for trial. He could see their envy, their jealousy, and their hatred, and knew that this was an internal power struggle (though he didn't understand the ultimate powers playing out before him).
Pilate examined Jesus and rightfully concluded that he was without fault. He even stood and announced this judgment of innocence publically. The Romans were brutal, but they understood justice. Against his own conscience and every feasible definition of fairness however, he had Jesus beaten to appease the Jews, hoping that a brutalized victim would satiate their bloodthirsty lust. It did not, they wanted him executed. Pilate knew what was right, yet he so easily slid down the path of compromise. He feared Caesar, he feared Jesus, and he feared the crowd. Here was a man driven by uncontained fear, like a wild animal desperate for survival. At that preeminent moment of history, he could either do what was unquestionable right by releasing Jesus, or he could save his own skin through capitulation. He chose door number two. The crowd pressed him; Jesus was crucified. Ravi Zacharias writes,
Pilate may well be the quintessential example of what politics has come to mean. He knew what was right but succumbed to the seduction of his position. In life's most severe tests of motives, there is a politician in each and every one of us.
When conflicting worlds squeeze our conscience, an internal Pontius Pilate rises up within our heart and pleads with us to compromise and appease the throng for the sake of peace and stability. We try and wash our hands to demonstrate our own unique and detached innocence, but we know that any choice apart from God's perfect will is merely self-preserving accommodation. Leadership demands hard choices founded on truth and not self-interest. Spiritual leadership demands Biblical choices founded on the word of God and not the wisdom of this world.
Men, today is the day to stand and face the crowd. If they cry out "hypocrite," confess yourself a sinner saved by grace and a man not beset by past failures. If they question your allegiance to Caesar and threaten your social standing, declare "I find no fault in him at all," as you proclaim the righteous perfection of Jesus Christ. If they assail your character, surrender to Jesus, knowing that He is a shield to you and the lifter of your head. If they surround you like the bulls of Bashan, know that Jesus goes before you and that by His stripes we are healed.
Public opinion and popular culture have been illegitimate guests far too long in the American church. We have been afraid to resist the flow and course of this world. Let us hold fast our confession to Christ and lead our families and flocks into the pastures of obedience and faithfulness. We cannot let fear remove us from our high calling.
Men, it begins at home. Read something from God's word to your family this week. Discuss some aspect of doctrine. Make clear moral judgments on what you read or see in the news and then proclaim them to your kids. If you're in church leadership, identify one way your fellowship can move closer to Jesus and further from secular influence. Take action. If your leadership sphere extends beyond a congregation, ask how you can plug one hole that leaks culture into Christianity and how you can open one valve to share the Gospel with a dark and dying world. No more washing our hands in the basin of feigned innocence and no more running scared. It's time to conquer our internal "Pontius Pilate." It's time to lead.