Sailing into Stormy Seas: An Emerging Leadership Opportunity

The Rapture has proven to be a controversial subject. Christians vary in their views of its timing. Some, even if there IS a rapture. I owe you to state that I believe the Rapture of the Church takes place before the Tribulation. But that doesn’t mean I expect things to be all unicorns and rainbows before the Rapture.

On the contrary, I believe we ought to expect things to heat up and for life to become more difficult before the Tribulation. If we are approaching the end times, as current events indicate, things will get worse, not better. We should pray for revival, but we know what the Bible says about the end times. They are bad. It is difficult to read either Matthew chapter 24 or the Book of Revelation and see a scenario for world history where things get better and better, then Jesus returns to give The Church a hearty pat on the back for redeeming the institutions of man. No, the Bible’s picture is that Jesus returns to keep the human race from wiping itself out.

One of the earliest images used for the Church was a ship. Ship and anchor icons are found on the walls of the catacombs in Rome, marking Christian graves. First and Second Century believers regarded the Church as a spiritual ship. It was in the world, but the world was not to be in it. It was on a journey to the Port of Heaven, and all those inside worked together toward that end. 

That is an image we would do well to resurrect. The Church Ship is sailing into stormy seas. Good leadership is crucial to its safety and success, just as it was in the early years.

For the first three centuries, the Christian Church was generally opposed and sporadically persecuted in the Roman world. Because being a leader in the Church was a risky business, the quality of leadership was, for the most part, stellar. Bishops (lead pastors) were men of learning, maturity, and holiness. That carried over into the Fourth century when Constantine removed the ban on The Faith. The spiritual inertia that carried the Church through its first four centuries carried on well into the Fifth as the Church, now free of persecution, grew rapidly. 

When the Western Roman Empire fell at the end of the Fifth century, a leadership vacuum in the civil sphere developed across Europe and North Africa. People in urban centers looked to one of the few institutions left possessing good leaders—The Church. More than any other factor, the demise of the Roman Empire’s hegemony over the civil life of Europe propelled the Church to the fore of social life there. With bishops now being looked to provide social guidance, Western civilization began to turn toward what we now call the Judeo-Christian Worldview. 

Maybe you can see where this is going. Power corrupts. It did not take long for Church leaders to confuse their calling as shepherds with earthly rule, wealth, power, and position. But let’s back up and focus on what happened before corruption set in. The rise of Church leaders in society during the Sixth and Seventh centuries as Europe sailed into the stormy seas of the so-called dark Middle Ages can be instructive for us as we head into the rough seas of the End Times.

Many lament the dearth of quality leadership in the world. This may be an opportunity for the Church to serve as salt and light in a new way if its leaders are more Kingdom-oriented than seeking to build their own little kingdom of worldly success. 

This points up a major difference between our day and the Sixth century. There was usually just one local church in a city. It might meet in many places, but believers saw themselves as all part of one group called “the church.” Today, there are dozens, even hundreds, of churches in a city. They often compete with each other for a shrinking portion of the Christian pie. Competition is fine when you are selling tacos, widgets, or furniture. When your mandate is the Gospel, the only one we are in competition with is the devil.

I urge my fellow pastors to recognize the emerging opportunity to provide leadership beyond the walls of the church. As civil leadership disintegrates, we can step into the vacuum with wisdom from above. Look for opportunities to bring a Gospel influence to your community. 

The light never seems more bright than when it shines in the darkness.

39 thoughts on “Sailing into Stormy Seas: An Emerging Leadership Opportunity”

    1. I agree! Pre-trib Rapture brings an urgency to right our coarse in bringing the Gospel. Millions stand outside church doors in blindness. We can be their Light if we cast aside divisions & do as Christ commanded in John 13:34-35.

  1. Excellent! ” When civil leadership disintegrates we can step into the vacuum with wisdom from above!” You nailed it!! Too many pastors are stuck in their four walls with all kinds of groups and others do not want to upset anyone. Would Jesus tackle the “moral issues” of the day (that are destroying every fiber of society) if he were on earth today?? THE TIME IS LATE!

    1. James,
      Thanks. Let’s pray The Church at large recovers its prophetic voice, by which I do not mean the false prophets of the NAR who give a false hope. I mean the prophetic voice that stands apart from “the System” and announces the undiluted Word of the Lord.

  2. AMEN re ‘the church’ – His one body/ His one bride.
    Most of us will be somewhat aware of the preparations made by a bride to look her very best on her wedding day – umpteen visits to dress fitters/ make up and hair trials/ shopping for venue, decorations/ accessories…….. Oh that we would (as His bride) be as diligent to know Him 🙏

  3. Thank you Lance for this very insightful article. This brief view into the past history helps me realize how much I can be used by God in the current state of our world today. Thank you for writing this.

  4. Lance, it would be good to reflect and look back on those who were unable to see how our Lord directed us towards his Kingdom works on earth for this millennium. What happens in the earlier centuries can still take place unless we all turn our eyes to Jesus for our salvation.

  5. A follow-up article should be written on how today’s shepherds can become servant/leaders in our world today! Thanks.
    Pastor Oscar Cope

  6. Lance, I appreciate the perspective you give in light of Christian history. It’s easy to think that our times are completely unique, but God has worked in and through His people to weather some pretty bad storms in the past. I pray we can be a faithful “crew” for God’s ship!

  7. True, true, true. Beautifully written. I say, let’s get on with the work of Christ. His Kingdom needs additions. There’s still room at the Cross.

    Churches are too, too busy with their programmes, whilst Christ is looking for a beautiful adorned bride.

    Thank you Pastor for this.

    1. Daniel,
      Agreed. While there are many churches that fit the description you give, there are many that are all out for doing what you suggest.
      Let’s encourage our brothers and sisters who are tsayinbg “on mission” with the one Jesus gave, rather than just building an earthly kingdom that soon passes away.

  8. “Today, there are dozens, even hundreds, of churches in a city. They often compete with each other for a shrinking portion of the Christian pie… When your mandate is the Gospel, the only one we are in competition with is the devil.”

    This is so true. I have a vision that one day, many churches in one city, Christian groups on college campuses, etc. will be able to come together as a single, unified body of Jesus Christ. Our differences are mostly skin-deep… our unity would be so much stronger.

    Imagine if in one city, only five churches joined forces to worship, fellowship, collaborate and work together to reach their neighborhoods for Christ. Just five churches. Now imagine 10. Or 30, or 50. Imagine what we could do together. We could start a new revival.

    “By this the world will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

  9. Margarett Maxwell

    I use Enduring Word daily to help me with my daily Bible readings. Thank you for all your dedication. PS 7th and 8th centuries were the Dark Ages. Middle Ages were 1100 through 1500.

    1. Margaret,
      There’s been a lot of re-working of the albels applied to that entire period. Most current historians have ditched the label “Dark Ages” and instead refers to the etnrier time fromt he Fall of the Western Roman Empire to the Renaissance as the Early, Middle, and Late Middles Ages.

  10. Dr. Joseph Michael Gering

    Nice post. The world is lawless and does not know how to rule itself. Few of these if any seek God, but can you blame them? When the church copies the world’s measure of success and it’s ways, the salt has lost it’s flavor, for what difference then is there between the world’s ways and God’s when the church disregards and does not live it? What did Jesus say would be the PROOF to know He was sent from God the Father above? How we LOVE one ANOTHER. Our eyes need to be on His “servant-attitude”. If we fight and bicker and criticize and gossip, then the world writes our effect and testimony off as hypocritical. When we seek to follow and obey, to stand when tested or persecuted – to trust God when we don’t understand, then we will demonstrate to the world, what it does not have. What the meaning of love our neighbors as we love ourselves means. We have no trouble loving our self, and saying we love God, we have a lot of trouble “demonstrating” it. In the rocky dark seas, may we be a beacon of light, not just a flickering candle.

    1. “Qué significa amar a nuestro prójimo como nos amamos a nosotros mismos. No tenemos problemas para amarnos a nosotros mismos, y decir que amamos a Dios, tenemos muchos problemas para “demostrarlo”. En los oscuros mares rocosos, que seamos un faro de luz, no solo una vela parpadeante.” De acuerdo Dr. El Señor definió el verdadero estándar de como “amar al prójimo”… En Mateo 5: 43-48. (RV60) “AMAR” a quienes se dicen nuestros enemigos por ser verdaderos discípulos del Señor. “BENDECIR a quien nos Maldice, por igual condición. “HACER EL BIEN” a quienes nos Odian y Aborrecen. Y “ORAR” por quienes nos persiguen y difaman por ser cristianos. Estos 4 Verbos no los podemos vivir y aplicar a través de nuestra MENTE no renovada o sea una mente reactiva. Solo lo podemos hacer a través de nuestro “espíritu renacido o regenerado”, guiados y fortalecidos por el Espíritu Santo (Efesios 3: 16; Romanos 8) quien “derrama Su agape o Amor de Dios en nuestro espíritu renacido. (Romanos 5: 5)

    2. Dr. Gering,
      I posted earlier to Lance, and the thought I had is Daniel’s prayer ( Dan. 9 )
      Here is this godly man, talks to angels, and receives prophecy..,and yet he is so humble and honest…and puts himself with his brothers who sinned against God, I think there is a lot of finger pointing and pride with the believers in America…and all the while many people are going to a Christless eternity !! Scary
      I pray the Post will encourage those who are in ministry to be encouraged to serve our Jesus and help those who are weak
      Proverbs 27:17
      God Bless

    1. Tony,
      I was backslidden and met my wife in a bar in Riverside, CA ( UC Riverside )
      I was in the Air Force… we started dating and I knew after a while that there was something about her, got engaged, then a big fear came over me “ I don’t know what it’s like to be a husband ?”
      Told my fiancé I couldn’t marry her because she wasn’t a christian ( like I was lol ) we knew about Harvest…both went forward first week of May 1986…and was saved !!
      We were married in October, married 36 years, yes God is gracious and my wife deserves a diadem for being married to me…we have an adult daughter with special needs, and I’ve learned from her what grace looks like …
      I’m so grateful for Jesus saving me and I can’t imagine not knowing him !
      God Bless to those who read

  11. Thank you Pastor for the words of wisdom and comfort, ownership belongs to God, I grew up in the inner city where I gave my life to Jesus. I’ve worked in many churches and it was not until I moved to another state to find out worshiping did not have to be like the game of monopoly where every church is trying to win a place on the Boardwalk or Park Place instead of evangelizing the surrounding neighborhoods. Your words are REFRESHING.
    Thank you.

  12. Thanks for writing this Lance.

    I believe there is one key problem with the church, the called out ones, that many have not noticed. The early church from what I see in the Word, had a different way of meeting.
    Acts 2:46-47 King James Version (KJV)
    And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
    I am not at all sure that we can be a successful church in our present form. That is, in the brick & mortar church building model, operating as a caste society with the orator class & listener class as set up by Constantine. It leads to a corporate structure, very often with corporate minded leaders rather than close fellowship in the family of God. We see a snapshot in 1Corinthians 14 of how very different early church gatherings were. Each one was expected to contribute to what was happening. 1 Corinthians 14:26 26 What then, brothers and sisters? Whenever you come together, each one has a hymn, a teaching, a revelation, another tongue, or an interpretation. Everything is to be done for building up. We now have staff to share the Word, lead singing etc while the rest of the family can sing along or listen.
    God has been long-suffering to say the least but I believe we have fallen a long way away from the original template & picture of a close knit, living family who all had a vital part as members of the family of God.

    1. Lorne,
      Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
      As close examinatiion of how the early church met and what they did makes it pretty clear that the basic modern service that simply worships God together, spends some time in corporate prayer and yes, gives attention to an elder who teaches and preaches God’s Word is doing what the fiurst Christians did.
      For more on this, may I suggest my Church History series, Communion Sanctorum – History of the Christian Church =
      More to your point – There needs to be more “community” and a mutuality of love that does more than show up and sit in the same room for an hour.

    2. Hi Lorne,
      How to say that your right and that I don’t get convicted? Jesus saved me and my wife at harvest ( pastor Greg ) 1986, and truly I didn’t expect to see the things we have seen in the last 3-4 years In my life…I figured we be raptured and this world would go crazy…but here we are and for a time like this… as Mordecai told Esther.,,what are the true Christ followers going to do ?
      Ah…repent, and ask God to use us again, and obey what He tells us.
      God Bless Lorne

  13. My wife and I was reading in our one year Bible devotion… she came upon something I didn’t notice before, in the the dealing of the 10 plagues, the first 4 plagues both the Egyptians and Hebrews suffered, it was the last 6 that there was a distinction between the two, Lance, I believe God is purging His Bride and the true Yeshua followers will shine bright!! and fake will fall away ( 2 Thes. 2 )
    God Bless
    Dave from Arizona

    1. Dave from Arizona,

      Interesting insight on the plagues! That deserves more pondering in light of all this. Thanks for that.

      Myt wiufe and I are in AZ right now. Visiting relatives in the Phoenix area, then on to Prescott, now in Kingman. Today we head over to Boulder City & Henderson. LOVE your State. We may end up here.

      1. Hi Pastor Lance,
        Prescott is beautiful !! We love it there,
        I pray you and your wife get the rest you need before returning to minister to your flock,
        God Bless

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