Glorious, shining in goodness and beauty, strong and filled with gladness, drawing people in from all around, equipping young and old alike to take up the work of the Kingdom with joy, bursting at the seams, prevailing through trial and affliction: Is this the way we think of our churches?

To put the question more directly: Is this the way today's pastors and church leaders think of the congregations they serve?

Like most of the prophets, Zechariah has some choice words of warning for those who lead the flock of the Lord. God consistently laid Israel's failure to live up to her covenant prospects at the feet of shepherds who ignored His vision for His people and struck out instead in directions of their own (cf. Ezekiel 34:1-10). The Lord through Zechariah condemned leaders who pandered to the idolatrous inclinations of the day, spun out visions other than what the Lord had given them, failed to exercise vigilance over the well-being of the people, and preached things other than the plain Word of God (Zechariah 10:2,3). The Lord's anger was "hot" against such shepherds, and He resolved to punish them severely (v. 3).

Jesus said that no congregation would be able to rise above the level of its leadership (John 13:16). If today's churches are failing to realize the Lord's vision for them it can only be because their leaders have adopted some other vision to guide their lives and work. For most churches that vision can be summarized as "perpetuating the status quo indefinitely into the future." Such a vision denies the plain teaching of Scripture concerning God's will for His people. It fails to challenge the priorities and values of the followers of Christ, and encourages them to spend most of their precious time, energy, and resources on temporal rather than eternal things. Such a vision settles for a "good enough" approach to managing the affairs of God's people instead of the "press on" attitude recommended by the Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:12-15). It leaves the church prey to the whim of the pastor and leaders rather than the will of God in Scripture. And it does not take seriously the requirement that every member of the Body find his or her proper place of service in building the Church and advancing the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Ephesians 4:11-16).

If the leaders in your church are following a "status quo" approach to leadership, rather than one based on the Lord's vision for His people, how can they—or the people they serve—expect anything other from Him than hot displeasure and severe discipline? He loves them too much to let them continue on a course other than that which He has determined for them (Hebrews 12:3-17).

The potential of local churches to make a Kingdom impact in their communities depends in large part on the faithfulness of their leaders. Zechariah tells us that God will judge those leaders who, by their ineptness, negligence, or outright disobedience, cause the people to languish and wander from His purpose and course. Then He will turn His attention to caring for His flock, delivering them from their wandering and affliction and leading them to fulfill His vision (10:3ff).

The Lord will establish them as strong battle steeds (Zechariah 10:3). Snorting, pawing the ground, straining at the bit, and bristling with strength and might, they will go into battle under their Lord, take their directions straight from Him, and draw on His courage and power against every foe. Surely the leaders of such a flock must be men whose zeal for the battle is intense and whose relationship with the Lord is very close and real. Church leaders whose spiritual disciplines are lackluster—especially daily time in the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4)—or whose time and energies are exhausted in pursuit of the business of the world will not be able to lead their churches to the greatness God intends for them.