(Sarah Holik, Children's Minister at First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald, was ordained to the ministry on Sunday evening, January 23, 2011 at Parkway Baptist Church in Duluth. My assignment was to deliver the "charge to the church" which I based on 1 Corinthians 1:1 and the text of which follows.)
Effective pastoral leaders are committed to bringing about transformation; that is, they want to lead individuals in a community of faith and to lead that community as a whole to be transformed more and more into followers of Jesus Christ. Effective leaders, then, are transformational leaders. Effective transformational leaders are always in the process of being transformed themselves; they recognize their own need, they never forget that they have a long way to go, and they gratefully and constantly acknowledge their reception of the ongoing and transforming grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I have no doubt, nor do any who know who and who have observed her life and her ministry, that Sarah Holik will be that kind of transformational leader.
Still, you can lead a Christian or a church to transformation but you can’t make them be transformed. One challenge for a disciple or for a group of disciples is to be willing to seek transformation, to seek growth, and to seek change. Another challenge is to seek and to find and to follow the right kind of leader, a leader who actively seeks ongoing transformation for herself and who out of her experience of transformation leads others to be transformed.
I charge the Parkway Baptist Church that is ordaining Sarah to the ministry, I charge the First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald that is now actively sharing with Sarah in ministry, and I charge all other churches that are represented here today, to be transformational followers. I challenge you to acknowledge and even to celebrate your need of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, to seek transformation into more complete followers of Jesus Christ, and to seek growth in Jesus Christ—and to do so with great commitment and even enthusiasm. I furthermore charge you to find and to follow leaders who understand the goal of Christian transformation and who demonstrate such understanding by hungrily pursuing it themselves.
After all, we all need models in whom we can see the way to go.
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians. It strikes us at first read as an arrogant thing to say but, when you stop and think about it, it is the way it is with churches and their leaders. We really do look to them to show us the way of Jesus; we really do look to them to walk in that way themselves and thereby to help us to see how it is done.
Paul said this in the context of a particular discussion about some particular issues. Still, the general principle is an important one for us: we need to grow and to make progress in our following of and in our obedience to Jesus and we need leaders we can follow who have made and are making such progress in their own lives. Leaders like Sarah is and will be are such leaders—follow them! Sarah is such a leader—follow her!
We can of course follow Jesus for ourselves but, if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll know that we need all the help we can get.
We will not follow Sarah in her perfection, for she has none. We will not follow Sarah in her completeness, for she has none. We will not follow Sarah in her infallibility, for she has none.
The truth is that we will follow Sarah in her imperfection and in her incompleteness and in her fallibility because it is precisely through the ways that God works in and through her utter humanity to bring about transformation in her that we will learn better how God works in and through our utter humanity to bring about transformation in us.
So be imitators of Sarah as she is an imitator of Christ; follow her in being transformed more and more into who Christ saved, is saving us, and will save us to be.
Wanting to be transformed is the first step in being transformed. Sarah wants to be, so we can safely walk along beside her—and sometimes even behind her…