In two previous posts (“Leaders and Servants…” and “More on Leaders and Servants…“) I examined Jesus statements in Matthew 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45, and Luke 22:24-26 concerning leaders among Christians. Jesus said that for non-believers, leaders exercise authority. But Christians should follow those who serve. This does not mean that leadership is a new type of service.
In other words, who would Jesus point out if he were asked, “Who is the best leader?” He would not point to the one with good leadership skills, decision making ability, educational background, communication skills, personality traits, charisma, etc. Instead, He would point to the one who was serving and say, “Do you see how much that person is serving? Follow his example.”
But, how does this correspond with Scripture’s command to obey our leaders?
I’m still studying this issue. I’ve been looking into various words and the scriptural contexts in which they are used:
ÎµÏ€Î¯ÏƒÎºÎ¿Ï€Î¿Ï‚ (ÎµÏ€Î¹ÏƒÎºÎ¿Ï€ÎÏ‰) â€“ Does this noun (and verb) indicate an administrator of an organization or someone who cares for people? Whatâ€™s the difference for the church?
Î·Î³ÎÎ¿Î¼Î±Î¹ – Does this mean “rule” or “lead”? What differences does this make in Heb 13:7, 17, and other passages?
Ï€ÎµÎ¯Î¸Ï‰ – Does this mean “obey” or “be persuaded/convinced by”? How would each definition affect passages such as Heb 13:17?
Ï…Ï€ÎµÎ¯Ï‡Ï‰ – If one person “obeys” or “submits to” another person, does that meant that the second person has “authority” over the first?
ÎµÎ¾Î¿Ï…ÏƒÎ¯Î± – Why does Scripture never use this word for “authority” in the context of pastors or elders?
So, these are a few of the questions that I’m exploring. As you can see, many of the words have wide semantic ranges. In English, they can be translated with words that have different meanings.
Of course, I’m not beginning this study without presuppositions or biases. I recognize that I have a certain understanding of Christian leaders. In particular, I believe that Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels should influence our understanding of leaders: i.e. we should follow those who serve. I also think this corresponds to John’s warning against Diotrephes in 3 John 1:9 and Peter’s instructions for elders to care for people by “not domineering… but being examples” (1 Peter 5:3 ESV).
As I continue to study these words and passages, I’ll post more here. If you have any comments on this issue, I’d love to hear from you.