Time to Boot Leaders out of Christ’s Church
I like to insert humor in my writing so people will calm down, here’s a cartoon from one of my favorite cartoonists.
Now breathe a bit, one one thousand, two two thousand… Now that everyone’s heads aren’t exploding, let’s take a minute to explore God’s word about what it means to serve in Christ’s church.
23 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, whatever they tell you, do and [a]comply with it all, but do not do [b]as they do; for they say things and do not do them. 4 And they tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as their finger. 5 And they do all their deeds to be noticed by other people; for they broaden their [c]phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the seats of honor in the synagogues, 7 and personal greetings in the marketplaces, and being called [d]Rabbi by the people. 8 But as for you, do not be called [e]Rabbi; for only One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. 9 And do not call anyone on earth your father; for only One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called [f]leaders; for only One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest of you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
We should be able to stop at the words of Jesus and move away from ‘leaders’ in Christ’s church. But I have personally watched a pastor trump the words of Jesus with his own opinion. So Christ’s words don’t really matter at times.
The Request of James and John
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[d] 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[e] of all.45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Source: BibleGateway.
And while I want to explore what Jesus means specifically in terms of lording of others, let’s take a look at what it means to be a leader in contemporary society.
What is a Leader?
What are some aspects of a Leader.
- Leaders have employees.
- Leaders control the narrative, even individual speech.
- Leaders direct their followers in the way of the Leaders’ vision.
- Leaders can lead according to how they want, they are only bound to what is important to the leadership power structure.
- Leaders are concerned for the bottom line. Whatever that may be, it could be anything.
- Leaders are not bound to Scripture. There is no reason for them to be since the leadership model is not prescribed in Scripture.
A ‘leader’ can be anything, do anything, and get away with anything including calling themselves a ‘vision caster.’ A title that is 100 corporate and found in secular business.
So let’s look at what the Bible prescribes as a leader in Christ’s church…
Here is one scripture (CLICK HERE), here’s another (CLICK HERE) and another is here (CLICK HERE)… If you weren’t able to click on any links is because there are none. When the bible talks about how we serve in Christ’s church, they are as follows.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[a] and teachers,[b] 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[c] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
These gifts are for the building up the body, not controlling it. The gifts are actionable and chained to Christ’s loving instruction for his church. Ephesians 4:11-16
Biblical Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons
1 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.
Back to the secular definition of a leader. Well, it can be anything, it can be a position of authority for good, it can be a position of authority for bad. Leaders can perform how ever they way. In corporate America, for the sake of argument, leaders can be fired by their leader, stake holders, quit and go find another leadership position somewhere else. Again, leaders can be anything.
The pushback, and the reason some use the word leader in Christ’s church is because it connects to our consumer American culture and that a term like pastor is an old term. At least this is the argument of why Andy Stanley of North Point Church says churches need to move away from the term shepherd. People can’t connect with the term shepherd. Silly. Given that Andy Stanley has diminished the status of the Word of God in his own teaching, let’s avoid him as well as this false teaching as well.
There have always been ‘religious’ people that want to create terms, laws, and practices that are contrary to God’s written word. They do it for greed, personal gain. This was why Jesus rebuked the pharisees, they added to God’s law for their own personal gain, for control of God’s people.
What if a ‘leader’ sins against Christ’s church, maybe a group of ‘leaders.’ What then? Does the supreme leader do then? Who knows, after all, leaders can be anything. Is there a board of accountability? What are the qualifications of a leader in Christ’s church. Maybe they are qualified, maybe not. How do we know? Who knows. After all, a ‘leader’ can be anything. Has any ‘leader’ sinned in your church? Would anyone tell you? Good question.
Why unhitch a local church from the commands of God in Christ’s church? That speculation can go on for ever. But sadly we do have examples. Take for example Mark Driscoll and his abusive behavior at Mars Hill church. Numerous articles in recent history highlighting his others abuse in Christ’s church should be a retina blinding warning to Christians that when ‘leaders’ rule in Christ’s church, abuse increases as a real possibility.
Regarding abuse in Christ’s Church.
Christ’s local church should be the safest place on this planet. So why is it not?
Why does abuse in church happen? At the root of abuse of most types is control. One or more people controlling another or group of others. Take for example; A leadership group that has authority over another group in Christ’s church.
- Leaders don’t care what their subordinates think. Why would they, the leaders have the best ideas.
- Leaders lead, everyone else follows.
- Leaders Rule with or without accountability
It is very easy for a leadership team to abuse their authority since they are the leaders after all. When faith or authority from the masses is placed into a group of leaders and that group abuses their authority against those subordinate to them, then what? Is there a recourse? Sadly, for many churches mega or wanna-be-mega, the only recourse is to leave since the response from those in leadership is; -well this may not be the right church for you.- “Right church?” I thought Christ’s church was the right church for everyone? Right? (redundancy on purpose)
Even the secular world gets it. This from Psychology Today
“The perhaps best known unsuccessful leadership styles are the authoritarian (or “autocratic”) and the laissez-faire leadership styles. Whereas a person with an authoritarian leadership style will tend to lead by assuming control over all decisions while not soliciting input from or taking the advice of others in the organization” It seems that much of Christ’s church, especially in Evangelicalism, is operating on a 80’s Wall Street model. Top down.
If a church leader sins against the flock, how do you know? What happens?
Well if the Catholic Church (no link needed), Hillsong/AOG and as of late the SBC is any indication, covering up that sin seems to be a common practice within Christ’s church. If only a few people in a local church, the board, leadership group know about the abuse, it can be covered up without any accountability outside those small governing groups. Disaster to the flock.
So why the title leader?
Ego? (probably) Relevance? (misguided)
Let’s revisit the common push back from those who use the term ‘leader’ in Christ’s church, “We use the term leader because it is a term people relate to.” Umm, ok. Well yes, we do relate to it. But we also relate to the term Banana. Why not call those in who serve in Christ’s church ‘Bananas?’ Well, it would be confusing for sure. Can you imagine, “Hi, my name is Banana John Smith and I’m going to speak to you on the book of John 2:1-11” We all relate to the term banana, but let’s not use that as a label for servants in Christ’s church. Why not call them, what they do? This is how the bible prescribes gifts in Christ’s church. Hi I’m John Smith, your servant in Christ’s church and today I’ll be teaching. I’m a teacher. So the relevance defense is just silly. The term leader is on purpose. Again, why? Ego? Control? Both?
Some want to combine the words into a new term Servant Leadership. Well that’s an oxymoron. Can one person serve, be the least in Christ’s verbiage, and be the greatest at the same time? Silly.
This article and it’s critique of the term leaders and why the mechanism or role of ‘leader’ is wrong for Christ’s church, could go on for days. There are so many stories of ‘leaders’ falling spectacularly in Christ’s church:
The solution? We should instead return to the Biblical model of serving and not ruling. Is this a matter of semantics, the answer is no.
The term, phraseology, or roll of leader is too easily detached from God’s word and open for abuse. We have leaders at work, we have leaders in kids scout teams, we have leaders in the military, we have leaders in sports. But leaders can be anything and act anyway that they can get away with. I once had a leader who couldn’t lead a pack of rats in a cheese factory. We are absolutely used to the term leader and know that we should follow a leader, right? Not because of any intrinsic value of that leader in Christ’s church, but solely because said leader or leaders were voted on or placed in front of us as someone we are told to follow. They lead we follow? And without qualifying according to God’s word.
Everyone, including this writer is subject to God’s Word which includes God’s biblical discipline, God’s structure for his church. If someone, like Mark Driscoll thinks they are beyond the Bible and have the authority to abuse others in Christ’s church, those people should be booted right out the door. They are no longer qualified to oversee anyone in Christ’s church. There has to come a time when we get tired of seeing these ‘leaders’ abuse people in Christ’s church and say ‘enough is enough.’ The leader paradigm is dead.
So it’s time. It’s time to boot leaders out of Christ’s church. Christ’s church has no room for leaders only servants. Christ’s church doesn’t need Lords of Leaders lording over others. If your pastor still uses the term, ask him why when Jesus doesn’t support it.
If people want to lead, Apple is hiring.
#apologetics #churchreform #leadership #churchleaders #churchleadership #christianity #reformation
Steven Davis is a burned out preacher’s kid, unpeeling evangelical, media producer, musician, and practicing apologist.