Leading with Courage and Wisdom In Divisive Times

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Written by: Tyler St. Clair 

Tyler St. Clair is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Church Detroit in Detroit, Michigan. He also serves as the network lead for Church in Hard Places in Acts 29’s U.S. Midwest Network. Tyler is married to his best friend, Elita, and they have five amazing kids. You can follow him on Twitter.

This following content was originally published on Acts 29’s website, linked HERE.


Our Creator made humans in his image as intellectual beings. When we see a problem or recognize where improvement is needed, we have the ability to make corrective adjustments. But sadly, unlike our all-wise, infinite Creator, our understanding is flawed and finite.

We’ve all heard countless stories of pastors and planters abusing authority, leading in a bullying manner, failing morally, being dishonest, and hurting people. We know of pastors burning out, imploding their families, crippling their churches, and not finishing well.

To avoid the same plight, many have made adjustments, set boundaries, and now strive not to be “that pastor.” Despite good intentions, some have swung the proverbial pendulum too far in the opposite direction, becoming fearful, overly cautious, and passive.

Biblical Directives for Leading

This pendulum swing reminds me of the apostle Paul writing to his young protégé, Titus. After observing wildly immoral culture, idolatry, false teaching, and division seeping into the church, Paul gives Titus some strong directives.

Here are a few examples of Paul’s instructions to Titus.

  • “For there are many rebellious people, full of empty talk and deception, especially those from the circumcision party. It is necessary to silence them; they are ruining entire households by teaching what they shouldn’t in order to get money dishonestly” (Titus 1:10–11).
  • “But you are to proclaim things consistent with sound teaching” (Titus 2:1).
  • “Proclaim these things; encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15).
  • “Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1).
  • “But avoid foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes about the law, because they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning” (Titus 3:9–10).

In all these examples, Paul encouraged Titus to lead courageously, develop other leaders, and confront discord swiftly. These are good directives for pastors and church planters to remember today.

Lead Courageously

It’s likely that Titus was a younger man potentially intimidated by his leadership responsibilities. A pastor, regardless of age and experience, can easily be intimidated if called upon to confront others who are older, influential, or wealthy. But Paul reminded his spiritual son of the gospel when he said, “Let no one disregard you.”The finished work of Jesus brings people from both genders, all socioeconomic levels, various political leanings, and all races to himself and makes us one body. We can’t tolerate disunity because it directly opposes the gospel.CLICK TO TWEET

False doctrine and divisive people are present in local churches today as well. And pastors and planters called by God and confirmed by godly witnesses can’t afford to be passive or fearful men. Now, I’m not talking about being brash and bombastic; this is often veneer.

Leading with courage is like what we see in Joshua’s commission: “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). Our courage is based on the ever-flowing strength of the ever-present Lord Jesus.

Develop Leaders

Like Titus, we must have an unwavering focus in these shaky and flimsy times. We should not waste our limited time and energy on “foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes.” Paul tells Titus that raising elders (Titus 1:5) and developing comprehensive discipleship culture (Titus 2:1–8) in the church was his chief responsibility.

Frankly, in the past, I’ve been guilty of wrestling with goats instead of feeding and strengthening the sheep the Chief Shepherd entrusted to me. Leaders, disciple-makers, and undershepherds won’t just emerge; we must intentionally identify, train, equip, and unleash these people. We must fiercely guard our time and bandwidth in leading our churches and prioritizing leadership development.

Confront Discord

What always strikes me in this letter to Titus is that Paul was ruthless regarding division in the church. After learning of believers ravaged by false teachers and divisiveness, he essentially said, “Enough is enough.” Yes, we can differ on secondary and tertiary issues; but the gospel, the supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture, the essentials of the faith, and the Great Commission are not up for debate.

As God’s appointed shepherds, we must confront wolves from the fold of God. As Paul prescribes, if a person refuses to repent, the shepherds must intervene to protect the flock. This is a gospel issue because Jesus created this unity through his death and resurrection (Gal. 2:28Eph. 2:11–22). By his grace, Christ fulfilled the law, accepted our judgment on the cross, clothed us in his righteousness, and reconciled us to God.Leaders, disciple-makers, and undershepherds won’t just emerge; we must intentionally identify, train, equip, and unleash these people.CLICK TO TWEET

But we’ve also been reconciled to each other. The finished work of Jesus brings people from both genders, all socioeconomic levels, various political leanings, and all races to himself and makes us one body. We can’t tolerate disunity because it directly opposes the gospel.

Pastors and church planters, let’s lead with wisdom and courage. Remember, you answer to God and not man for how you shepherd. Your integrity and wise leadership matter deeply.

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