It’s hard to believe, but this coming Easter it will be seven years since my wife and I began planting New Day Church. Looking back, I have been thinking more and more about what it takes to plant, grow and lead a healthy church. As pastors, we quickly come to understand the importance of leading the church in areas of vision, organization and evangelistic efforts. In addition, the pastoral task moves us to pray for the spiritual, emotional and economic welfare of our flocks. But pastors need to understand how these two streams intersect, for the most important aspect of our leadership pertains to the spiritual realm.
In discerning God’s challenge to me in this area, a biblical passage comes to mind. In Exodus 17, we learn of a war between the Israelites and the Amalekites. In verse 8 we read: “Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’” If we ever needed a portrait of what spiritual leadership looks like, here it is. Moses, the intercessor, commands Joshua, the warrior, to “go out and fight,” while he goes up the mountain to secure the victory in prayer. This was not a passive “you go and do the work for me.” Moses understood the victory God’s people needed in the natural sphere required him to win the battle in the spiritual realm. No matter how difficult the battle, Joshua was confident Moses was lifting them in prayer. Joshua’s spiritual mentor had given him his word. Knowing Moses was at war in the spiritual sphere enabled Joshua take up the task appointed to him in the earthly realm full of faith and assurance.
Reflecting on this, I have been asking myself this question: when I tell people I will be praying for them, do I really mean it or is it just my prepackaged response to every worry, problem and prayer request I receive? I have come to understand the flock God has placed under my care is depending on my prayers. As they face every temptation and make difficult decisions, they are trusting their pastor is praying for their spiritual, economic and emotional well-being. As I ponder on the significance of this, I am challenged by the thought that I better be doing more than simply putting on a show every Sunday. Am I merely directing their lives in areas of spirituality by informing them how to live as the Bible teaches? Or am I truly leading them on the path toward spiritual maturity by my example and coaching? Indeed, God has called us pastors to lead our parishioners spiritually, and we are at our best when we embrace and exercise our role as intercessors.