Listening to Dr. Albert Mohler’s podcast: The Briefing on this Tuesday September 20, 2022 I learned something about Queen Elizabeth II or as my political science professor called her: “QE2” ( shout out to Prof. Kent Sole) What I learned about the late Queen Elizabeth is a leadership lesson that directly translates right into any type of leadership, which in my case is church leadership.
Try not to jump ahead in my analogy before I actually get to my point as you may draw a likely conclusion but probably not the same conclusion, I intend to draw with this learning from The Briefing this morning.
History records many excellent leadership moments of QE2 and the one for today is the decision made by the Queen to attend the funeral of Winston Churchill. Well, why would QE2 not attend the funeral of one of Britain’s most renowned leaders? Simply, this had never been done before, a royal attending the funeral of a non-royal. Perhaps Dr. Mohler explained this best in this excerpt from the transcript of The Briefing:
“But then why Winston Churchill? Why a state funeral for a commoner? Now, he was an aristocrat, but he was not royal. Why in the world was there a state funeral in 1965 for Winston Churchill? And thus you're going back 50+ years in order to find that precedent. Well, the answer is, as Queen Elizabeth II made clear, and Winston Churchill was her first prime minister, as Elizabeth answered, "He did, after all, save Western civilization" speaking of his heroic role as the British Prime Minister, particularly during World War II. But what is also faintly remembered, if at all by many people, is that Queen Elizabeth II broke precedent, in one sense broke the royal rules in two ways related to the funeral of Winston Churchill. Number one, it was declared an official state funeral, and thus it had the same elevated status as the funeral that was held yesterday in Westminster Abbey for Queen Elizabeth II, herself.
But Queen Elizabeth did something else with the state funeral of Winston Churchill. She broke royal tradition and she herself, as the reigning monarch, attended the funeral of someone who was not a royal. Not only that, you can find a black and white image, very historic, and to me extremely moving, in which a very young woman dressed entirely in black with her purse held in front of her stands under the towering columns of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, waiting for a body in a casket for a state funeral to enter, and that was the young Queen Elizabeth II breaking with royal tradition to stand there as the casket of Winston Churchill was brought in, in honor of her prime minister, who as she said, had been used to rally England to save civilization. Queen Elizabeth knew something else, of course, and that was the fact that her father, as King George VI, who had unexpectedly become king just before the advent of the tragic events of World War II, she knew that her father, King George VI and Winston Churchill had formed an unlikely but unbreakable bond during the hard years of the war.
It was a way of the Queen honoring not only the former prime minister, but the man who had given such incredibly courageous service unto her father, the King, during so many of Britain's darkest days.” (The Briefing Podcast; Dr. Albert Mohler, September 20, 2022)
Now, I will get right to the point, taking what Dr. Mohler said and making it mean something even a little more specific to the local church today. The line in the transcript: “She broke royal tradition and she herself, as the reigning monarch, attended the funeral of someone who was not a royal.”
The caveat I gave earlier in this writing that the conclusion you draw might not be, is probably not, the same conclusion I intend to draw to the discussion here.
QE2 broke tradition to do the right thing. As a leader, especially a stoic, reserved, British leader, to maintain tradition would have been the safest path forward and this would have regarded as such, without judgment or criticism. The opportunity presented to QE2 was one of leadership, real leadership when the moment comes and the leader does not let that moment pass without doing the right thing, regardless of tradition. I guess we could get into situational ethics here, but let’s just look at this simply for the edification of the body, the local church context.
If you heard, read or know the story of Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI and the connection to Winston Churchill, then you are likely familiar with the story of what Sir Winston Churchill meant to Britain and perhaps to the world. In this moment of real leadership, QE2 made a decision that only she could make: (1) to honor and recognize the life and service of a commoner which would be beneath her role and position. (2) to honor her own father that she knew in her heart would have made the same decision had King George VI been there. To seize this moment the way she did was the right decision by QE2 and that is what people remember today. QE2 broke tradition to honor the hero and to honor her own father by doing what proved to be the honorable thing, despite tradition.
This brings to mind a passage from Matthew 15: 1-9, regarding tradition
15 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,”[a] 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word[b] of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 “‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
So, what? What is my point? My caveat, your conclusion might be to make the pastor of the church analogous with QE2 ,but that would not be my conclusion. May I have just a few more minutes to elaborate?
At times, you as the average church member are analogous with QE2. You the church member are in a position to exercise leadership and do what is right, unlike QE2 usually the average church member wants to remain AVERAGE. There is a time to conserve, a time to revere and then there is also a time to seize the moment and break from a man-made tradition and do what is best, that which is excellent.
Consider Mary and Martha, one chose tradition and the other the better part in Luke 10:38-42. By tradition Martha went to doing probably what her mother and grandmothers for generations had done, by keeping tradition Martha missed the opportunity.
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus[a] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
If you see where I am going with this, pray for us that have shown leadership in seizing the moment to only have that moment stalled by people clinging to tradition for the sake of tradition. We do not need change for the sake of change. I am a firm believer of not trying to fix something that is not broken. I am highly in favor of taking what works to the maximum by continuous evaluation and improvement, especially when it directly pertains to the Great Commission.
Would somebody go get Martha out of the kitchen, she is missing what God is doing outside the man-made traditions?
We should examine Sunday night services in the local church. For some churches the Sunday night service is the best service of the week and I love this! If this is the case in your church, guard it, protect it and build it even deeper into the church culture. By contrast some Sunday night services are no longer being held. Then there is the third type of church where Sunday night service only exists to honor a man-made tradition.
Before you judge what I have written, consider that in my case that our church members vote every week for both the Sunday AM and PM service with their attendance. We have about 13% of our AM attendance back on Sunday night. Before we changed to our afternoon discipleship model, the music was the same, the preaching was the same.
Get this though, a huge positive! We have almost 45% of our AM attendance coming back at 4 PM on Sundays for discipleship. Sunday night services in the past never experienced a 40% of AM attendance on a Sunday night except for special occasions.
1. The church is in dire need of direct discipleship.
2. The staff put together an offering of 9 discipleship classes ranging from Financial Peace, Divorce Care, A Bible Class, a biblical parenting class, Children’s Worship and Student Worship.
3. The pastor, for transparency that’s me, wants to be knocking on doors before dark on Sunday afternnons sharing the gospel and teaching church members how to share the gospel and this new format would allow this to happen.
4. As the pastor, I tried to break from tradition to seize a moment for the life of our church and for the edification of the body, all of which is centered on making disciples and teaching them to obey what Christ commanded.
For now, at least, Martha is still in the kitchen but we are praying and believing.
In all things,
Andy Goode is a Biblical Counselor and Pastor in Hattiesburg, MS. This blog is about strengthening marriages and providing biblical direction for everyday issues and sometimes just about leadership in general.