I am a member of a church that has gone through a period of numerical growth and spiritual development of late. This has come after a season in which membership declined and there was the odd rumble of discontent within the membership. Over recent months I have found myself saying that for this experience (blessing) to continue we must keep the work of the church on the front foot.
Having explored the origins of the phrase it seems likely that it comes from the game of cricket. A defensive stroke, i.e. one that is aimed at playing the ball safely, not necessarily to score a run, is often "off the back foot." In other words, the batsman takes a step backward towards the stumps.
Taking a step down the pitch, towards the bowler is often, "on the front foot."
If we view the game as a whole then defensive play is a vital tactic. However, to win a batsman must go on the front foot and attack in order to build up runs.
How do we keep a church on the front foot? How do we take courageous steps forward, seize the initiative and accept the challenges that come our way?
It starts with the leadership and has implications for the membership.
A church on the front foot has leaders that are marked by...
A strong sense of purpose
They recognise that the challenge is not to waste time on secondary objectives. Focus is paramount.
“Forgetting what is behind…I press on…” (Philippians 3:13-14)
Leaders (on the front foot) know that they need to contend with opposition, criticism, problems...and maybe even praise!
It is a sobering thought that many of the leaders in Scripture failed during the second half of their lives.
“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” (Hebrews 12:1).
Self-knowledge and mastery
A leader's knowledge of their strengths develops confidence in God. Awareness of their weaknesses cultivates faith in God.
“Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Timothy 4:16).
Leaders (on the front foot) take charge of their personal development and the nurturing of their gifts and talents.
“Whatever you have learned, or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9).
Leaders (on the front foot) care deeply about the flock that God has placed within their oversight.
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care” (1Peter 5:2).
No fear of failure
Leaders (on the front foot) are open and honest about their mistakes and failures. Because of this they can accept people as they are...and lead them forward in God.
“I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
A sense that they are ultimately followers
Leaders (on the front foot) know that they are first and foremost disciples (followers) of Jesus.
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Much could be added to this but these characteristics (at least) are evidenced in leaders who are on the front foot for the Lord Jesus Christ and his church.
What about church members? This is...
...to be continued...