John Maxwell’s familiar maxim “Everything rises and falls on leadership” powerfully reminds leaders of both the possibilities and the responsibilities of their role. Great leaders look for ways to help others see how much can be accomplished and how wonderful life can be if people would only gather together in concert to turn that vision into reality. In the church we sometimes assume that, because the Lord has provided the vision and the plan, having truly good men in the leadership is enough to guarantee success as a congregation. However, goodness alone does not accomplish all that leadership requires.
Jotham came to the throne of Judah at the young age of twenty-five. He ruled only sixteen years (2 Chr. 27:7-9), but he still managed to have an active building program and secure military victory over the Ammonites (2 Chr. 27:1, 3-5). However, the foundation for his successful reign hinged on his relationship with God: “So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God” (2 Chr. 27:6). This led to his doing “what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah had done” while not making the big mistake that his father had made (2 Chr. 27:2a). Jotham did his part personally. He was a good man, “But still the people acted corruptly” (2Chr. 27:2b). This contrast does indeed demonstrate the limitations of Jotham’s leadership. Despite having the advantage of building on his father’s accomplishments and living properly himself, he could not halt the spiritual decline in Judah. He did some great things for Judah while he was there—positive acts that helped them as a people—but as a whole, they would not follow his spiritual example.
In the church today, people often make the mistake of measuring congregational health according to how good the men are in the eldership and how good the preacher is in the pulpit. While these, undoubtedly, help a congregation significantly, the greatest vision of godly elders and the most powerful sermons by an eloquent evangelist cannot breathe life into a congregation if the people will not follow. A congregation can have a great visitation program, but where are Christians visiting? A congregation can have a great evangelistic plan, but are Christians evangelizing? A congregation can have a masterful Bible class program, but are students learning? At some point we must realize that the health of a congregation, like the health of a nation, cannot be judged by the number of programs available, the nature of the building, or the knowledge of the preacher. The spiritual health of God’s people in any place is measured by the spiritual commitment on display. It takes more than leadership. It takes people who follow (1 Cor. 11:1).