Today I read Judges Chapter 17 and paused on v.6 'in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.'
Now Chapter 17 of Judges is a curious chapter. After the narratives about the exploits of Samson and before him various characters, there is a stand alone story about a man called Micah. He appears to hold no leadership function in Israel, he's not a judge or King, just some random bloke who thinks that by paying for some ministry he will live in health and happiness. (v.10-13)
I'm struck by the sense that all too often in my experience God's people continue to operate in a worryingly similar way. A faith that, on the surface at least, can often be expressed in a quasi-superstitious way where quid pro quo trumps the concept of faith believing in extravagant grace. All too often I've heard people justify their 'faith' in terms of how much money they have given to the church, or those who see the favour of God present, or future hope, as a reward for church attendance, faithful service or other good works. Surely such an outlook is at best faith mixed with superstition (I.e unless I do 'x' why will happen etc) or at worst heresy.
For me, the clue to Micah's curious outlook on faith/life is found in the afore-mentioned verse 6.
'In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.'Without godly leadership to gently guide or steer God's people it is so easy to miss the mark and wander astray. Good leadership is never oppressive, manipulative or domineering, but it does set a path for people to follow and calls them to maintain on a straightish road of discipleship in the midst of distractions and challenges. In my own UK Methodist tradition, we are increasingly re-discovering that one of the roles of the ordained person is to lead. There are many ways of expressing godly leadership, but it's vital to understand that the absence of leadership only leads to calamity, however naively it was pursued, or innocently it was embarked upon.
'Good leadership is never oppressive, manipulative or domineering...'To lead well, then may not be all about 'success' as the modern church all to often views, with pass/fail criteria largely based upon the building of bigger churches, but the test of leading well is surely to assess, what is passed on to others, an authentic Gospel secure in faith/grace partnership or a deviation from the wonderful story of God's grace which is always to sell people short of all that is on offer