This morning is our final week of our non-negotiables series. We are covering the essential topic of qualified leadership. This is vital and it is not a new issues for the church.
In fact, across the Atlantic, nearly 130 years ago in the spring of 1887, Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher in London published the first of several cataclysmic articles that ruptured across the church landscape in his day.
By Spurgeon’s own admission he didn’t realize all that he was getting in to. At least not the magnitude of it. The first article was titled “Downgrade.” You are probably familiar with the “Downgrade Controversy” as it were.
The first article was published anonymously, but written by a close friend of Spurgeon’s. Over the next months as the additional articles were published a firestorm broke out and there was great opposition to the articles as well as affirmation.
The author’s main point was, “we [speaking of the church] are going down hill at breakneck speed."
He used the analogy of going downhill as his imagery for drifting.
By some means or other, first the ministers, and then the Churches, got on "the down grade," and in some cases, the descent was rapid, and in all, very disastrous. In proportion as the ministers seceded from the old Puritan godliness of life, and the old Calvinistic form of doctrine, they commonly became less earnest and less simple in their preaching, more speculative and less spiritual in the matter of their discourses, and dwelt more on the moral teachings of the New Testament, than on the great central truths of revelation… the sermons became more and more Christless. Corresponding results in the character and life, first of the preachers and then of the people, were only too plainly apparent. 
The pastors departed from purity of life and soundness of doctrine. These articles as I said began a widespread and public controversy. Spurgeon himself was at the middle of until he died.
He said that he couldn’t keep silent any longer. Once he had been made fully aware of the decline he was compelled to warn pastors and people alike.
In England the church has never recovered from the Down Grade. To date there has been no widespread revival.
What Shindler picked up on, and shortly behind him, Spurgeon was the rapid decline of the church at the hands of the men called to lead. It came by way of downplaying godliness and drifting in their preaching.
This is tragic. It has always plagued the church—Titus 1:11, 2 Timothy 2:18 talk of men whose doctrine disrupt the faith of others.
I mean this topic hits close to home… for me as a pastor and you as a congregation.
We don’t live in fear, but we do take them seriously. Our hope is that Christ is able to finish that which he started and preserve us.
2 Peter 2:9—the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation;
2 Timothy 4:17—the Lord stood with me and strengthened me… the Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever.
There is a teaching out there that is pervasive and it goes something like this… since we all mess up anyway and no one is perfect, it isn’t that big of a deal whether or not a pastor is godly.
No we are told. We look to Christ only and not to men. After all look at how God used Samson. And he is in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11, along with many other liars and scoundrels.
Several issues with this logic:
- Interpretively we don’t use descriptions to trump what is prescriptive. If anything the prescriptive teaching clarifies the descriptive (using Rahab as an example of how it is good to lie vs. going to passages that teach about integrity and truth telling and bearing false witness).
- Samson missed massive opportunities for spiritual leadership. His parents set him apart from birth. He was given a leadership role over the nation. He squandered and wasted it all. There was a significant impact on his own life and the lives of those around him.
Lastly, if you believe that the Gospel is actually powerful enough to transform an enslaved sinner to a sinner who follows hard after God (which I do) then why can’t we expect that to be demonstrated visibly and seen throughout the church.
I love the Gospel. I believe the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. And I believe that part of the power of the Gospel is that when God saves you He gives you a new heart and you begin to live for Him!
In the past 24 months notable men have failed to run the race to completion. Men who were at the highest levels of leadership—coalitions, organizations, leading large church bodies and multi-site locations.
As the new came out it turns out that they were selfishly ambitious, domineering, manipulative, at times immoral.
And the churches hemorrhage when this happens.
What is the purpose of a message like this?
- Incites a desire/aspiration in the hearts of the those whom the Lord is calling into that position [1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Peter 5:2]
- Established an (appropriate) appreciation for the office [1 Timothy 5:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13]
- Sets the standard you must hold your leaders to maintain [1 Timothy 4:12, 1 Peter 5:1-3, Philippians 4:9]
- Spurs growth in your own life as you are reminded of the bar set by the Chief Shepherd [1 Timothy 3:1-15; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4]
 Robert Shindler; “The Down Grade”, published in The Sword and The Trowel, March 1887: http://www.spurgeon.org/s_and_t/dg01.ph