Physical paralysis is a terrifying thing. I grew up in an era when many children routinely suffered Infantile Paralysis, or Polio, and my parents lived in fear that it would strike our family. When a successful vaccine was discovered there was joy in our home, and everywhere.
Leadership paralysis is not a physical disease, but a spiritual one, yet its effects can be tragic. When the body of Christ is under attack, and needing firm and clear leadership to avoid serious danger, a paralyzed leader is catastrophic. The flock will be wounded or worse. Many will fall away, some will be led astray, and others will just relapse into a religious church behavior. The truth of the gospel tells us that this state of affairs will eventually have eternal consequences, if there is no turning back. They will forfeit life eternal with the Lord.
Why then does this phenomena manifest itself so frequently at this time in history? What has happened to the leadership called for by Christ Jesus in the beginning? Why is there so little understanding of the evil forces which seek to cheat, kill, and destroy the flock of God? Why do so many leaders show so little willingness to put their lives and reputations on the line, if required, for the radical truth of the gospel?
The Scripture describes “a sheep who before his shearers is dumb” as a picture of the Lord going willingly to his sacrificial death for the sins of the world. But nowhere does it use that image to describe the behavior of a shepherd refusing to defend and care for the sheep of God’s pasture. How does such leadership paralysis begin?
It begins when leaders are given offices in the church in a manner unrelated to the authenticity of their spiritual experience. When “good” men become ordained, and not converted men of courage and character. When men with a smile and and a laugh take the place of the prayerful and humble. When the performance of religious ritual, done properly and in order, supplants the inner working of the Holy Spirit building up the body of Christ. When comfort and complaisance take the place of spiritual competence.
This deterioration continues when the life of the organized church becomes more and more patterned after the other organizations of the culture, and begins to lose its divine calling and anointing. Leadership becomes technique, programs, and methods, and not godly boldness, compassion, and grace. Organizational compliance supplants gospel obedience.
When such patterns have become normal, it is not long before even those within the leadership who have a sincere faith and desire to serve the Lord Jesus can become paralyzed. The power of social pressure and acceptance outweighs the call to do right. The example of bad leaders gives tacit permission for more bad leadership. The fear of the loss of job security paralyzes. The downward spiral continues.
Next Week: Programatic Paralysis