A.D. Clarke wrote the article on “Leadership” in the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Speaking of NT leaders, he says:
The context of leadership significantly affects the way in which that leadership is rightly exercised. Whilst being described as a labourer (1 Cor. 15:10; 16:15-16), the godly leader is nonetheless to equip (Eph. 4:11-13), care for (1 Thess. 2:7, 1 Tim. 3:5), guide (1 Cor. 4:15), and mobilize God’s people that they in turn may serve. It should be noted that, whereas commanding or ruling is fundamental to the task of the monarch (1 Kgs. 3:9), the military leader (Matt. 8:9), and the secular leader (Rom. 13:1-7), it has a comparatively small place in the role of the church leader. Consequently, whilst believers are to obey and be subject to their church leaders (1 Cor. 16:16; Heb. 13:17), the NT says little about church leaders demanding or exacting obedience from believers.
It is interesting that Clarke includes many Scripture references in this paragraph. However, when describing the leaders role to “mobilize” other believers, he does not include a reference. Similarly, he does not include any references to the “little” that Scripture says about “church leaders demanding or exacting obedience from believers”.
On the other hand, Clarke includes at least one of many scriptural references to leaders among believers who are laborers, who care for the people, and who guide the people. This is very similar to what I am learning about leaders as I study Scripture.
Leaders in Scripture are not those who direct the activities of a group of people. Instead, leaders in Scripture are those who serve others and provide a mature example of how to follow Christ. Shepherding, caring for, watching over, etc. are ways that leaders help others grow in maturity toward Christ, not decision making activities.
The Spirit provides all believers with everything necessary to make the decisions that they need to make in life. There is no need for another person to make decisions for them. They do not need a mediator to help them understand God’s will. They have the only mediator they will ever need.
As I was reading through Clarke’s descriptions of leaders in Scripture, I appreciated the fact that he drew a hard line between secular leaders and leaders among the church. Unfortunately, too many times, I see believers blurring those lines. Jesus said that if you want to know who to follow, then look around for those who are serving others and follow them.