2 Chronicles 34:33 Josiah removed all the detestable idols from all the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he made all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their fathers.
The story of Josiah is told in a little more detail in the parallel passage in 2 Kings 22-23, but any way you look at it, he was pretty impressive. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah, (2 Chronicles 35:25) and probably contributed to the prophet’s formative years. That said, this verse points out the vital function of leadership. As long as King Josiah was alive, those under him didn’t deviate from God’s way (once he got them back onto it). However, once he was gone, the people strayed again. In Protestant churches today we give at least lip service to the concept of the priesthood of the believer, but that doesn’t mean leadership isn’t important. America wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today if more pastors had been the leaders God called them to be, speaking out against the evils of the day. As it is now, simply preaching a message on Biblical morality will get you branded as a “bigot,” preaching “hate speech.” If Biblical morality had been proclaimed and practiced by more church leaders in the previous 70 years, that wouldn’t be the case. Looking back, however, shows us that the “sexual revolution” of the ’60s and ’70s infected the Church too, and leaders didn’t lead or led in the wrong direction. As James points out, “[those] who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1) If you are going to lead God’s people, you’ve got to lead them in obedience to Him, and set the example for such obedience.
Since I entered seminary in 1976, this hits me squarely. A previous pastor of a church I served in the US had major problems because of being unable to assert leadership in the case of the adultery of one of the deacons. It practically killed him, and the church was still suffering from the fallout when I got there. My tenure wasn’t the smoothest, but I think I left them better off than I found them. That’s not to say I was bold in my leadership. Actually, leadership has been something I have been tempted to shy away from over the years, and that hasn’t been good. Right now we are in a major project, which naturally requires clear leadership. I’m not to draw back, but finish well, so that the church may be firmly set on the course the Lord has for us. I am to teach and admonish, (Colossians 3:16) and I am to receive teaching and admonition. I am to keep our focus on God, on His kingdom and His righteousness, and not on any of the many worldly considerations that clamor for attention. As was rightly pointed out, everything we do needs to draw people into the family of God.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for Your patience with me as I have tried to get out of the leadership role You assigned me to. I pray that my leadership, for as long as You have me in it, would indeed draw people to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!