Jesus the Church Planting Failure? (Part One)

The Leadership Void (and yes, this is still a satire!)
If Jesus did not succeed in planting a church (i.e. modern institution such as those many plant today), our sophisticated methods today would point to the leadership void as one of the main reasons why his group of disciples never coalesced into a congregation. In fact, one of Jesus’ last conversations with his disciples involved a command to not lord authority over one another and not to call ANYONE teacher. Instead everyone was supposed to be a servant. Without a strong leadership at the foundation, it is easy to see how his disciples simply fragmented into a wandering mob for a period of time.

And some will say, such as the Catholics, that Peter was “the Rock” and that he was commanded to “feed the sheep”, and so that makes him the leader. As far as the rock comment goes, no leader can claim any amount of authority by simply being called a rock (especially if good Protestants can magically make the “confession” of Peter into the rock of which Jesus spoke). Perhaps Jesus meant that Peter was a stubborn, hard head? Or did Jesus mean that Peter was common and unvaluable, just as the rocks that jutted across the barren landscape of Israel.

And the sheep feeding comment could have made Peter into little more than a waiter or a servant, not the senior leader of the church. Do you know any prominent leaders who “feed sheep?” There’s a slight chance that Jesus was giving Peter some kind of authority, but we have to concede that his words were ambiguous enough to leave a leadership vacuum.

So what could Jesus have done differently?

First of all, he should have trained his disciples to be better leaders, or at least picked one of them to be the man in charge. All of this business with foot washing makes for a moving Sunday School lesson, but how will that get a pastor through congregational meetings, organize programs, or deal with the myriad of issues that fly in the face of church leaders? Simple skills such as leading a meeting, organizing groups, motivating staff and volunteers, handing out orders from the top of the organization, and so on would have been invaluable. Instead of building these strengths, we only see weakness in his disciples. How can anyone minister effectively out of weakness?

Seriously, what did Jesus expect fishermen, tax collectors, and the rest of his Galilean riff raff to know about leading the world’s single largest institution? If the disciples had been trained, they would have stayed the course after Jesus was crucified. None of this cowering behind closed doors to pray. No “waiting” for any Holy Spirit. No way. Good leaders have a plan in place and then boldly see it through. Training to fill such a leadership void was sorely needed by the disciples. Knowing that this never happened, we should not be surprised that Jesus did not plant a church while he was on earth.