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Claude Thomas: America is in need of great leaders

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–One of the primary needs of the contemporary church is for strong leaders who take their leadership precepts from Scripture, Claude Thomas said at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas, and chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said weak churches often are a sign of weak leadership. Thomas, though, told students in a March 29 message not to assume that great leaders are born. Rather, they are often made.

“We have the opportunity to do something great, to stand up and be a shepherd to the sheep,” Thomas said. “Most people aren’t natural leaders. Most real leaders are developed leaders. Most of the men and women who rise in leadership, it is not as if they woke up one day and said, ‘I’m a leader.’

“Most church leaders have learned to be leaders. They have paid tremendous prices to learn how to lead. What library would I suggest [for learning leadership principles]? I would suggest the library of the Bible.”

Instead of seeking to learn leadership in seminars and typical pragmatic programs designed to teach leaders in business and other secular pursuits, Thomas said church leaders should find their leadership examples in Scripture.

“If you want to understand great, abiding, tested and sure principles of leadership, go to the Bible,” he said. “Study the men of the Bible; they are proven leaders. Moses was a great leader. You study his life and you’ll learn some methods of leadership.

“By and large, the problem in the church is not the people. By and large in our churches, the problem lies at the feet of the leaders. One of the reasons so many young people are coming out of seminary and going to churches [where they] are dealing with all kinds of confusion and chaos in the local congregation is because the legacy that some leaders have left has been a legacy of a lack of leadership.”

One key to becoming an effective leader in the church is seeing persons in the way Jesus saw them, Thomas said.

“Sometimes I’m concerned that we see others as prospects that we can reach for our own advantage either in our churches, our institutions or our personal ministries,” he said. “We set out to strategize and to reach people as prospects for our personal gain.

True leaders see persons as sheep in need of a shepherd, who is faithful to preaching and teaching the Word of God and who follows after the example of Christ in holy living, Thomas said. Leaders also need to avoid viewing persons as problems to be avoided.

“One of the things I have learned after these years of ministry is that people have problems, so there is a tendency to see them as problems and to avoid them,” he said. “We need to see people through they eyes of our Lord. He said the people were like helpless, harassed sheep who needed a shepherd.”

A primary reason for the need of church leadership today is because of an American hunger for all things spiritual, Thomas said. He pointed to the proliferation of spiritual living books that line bookstore shelves — many of which are non-Christian and anti-Christian — as proof that people in the United States are longing to have a deep spiritual need met.

“Many of [the books] will lead people in another direction, but you have to understand why they are on the shelves,” Thomas said. “They put them on the shelves because people will buy them. At the heart of the culture today there is a cry for spiritual reality.

“Today in Christian ministry, God has called us and he has privileged us to be in leadership of his sheep. One of the greatest needs in the Christian church today is for men and women who can stand up as leaders called by God and commissioned by Jesus.”

Chapel messages can be heard on Southern Seminary’s website at www.sbts.edu/news/audio/speakers_chapel.html.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CLAUDE THOMAS.

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  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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