So far in this series, I’ve introduced the topic of mutuality (“Considering Mutuality – Introduction“), contrasted mutuality with both individualism and collectivism (“Considering Mutuality – Individualism and Collectivism“), demonstrated that the concept of mutuality is prevalent in the New Testament (“Considering Mutuality – Where in Scripture?“), and explored the scriptural connection between mutuality and maturity for believers (“Considering Mutuality – And Maturity?“).
In the last two posts of the series, I’m going to suggest some implications for both leaders and non-leaders respectively. By the way, when I use the term “leaders,” I’m talking about both those who have been recognized officially by the church as leaders (whatever their titles might be) and those who may not have been recognized officially but are nonetheless leading the church by their example of serving others.
There was a time (and perhaps this still happens today) when leaders were taught to distance themselves from others in the church. This practice stands opposed to the idea of mutuality found in Scripture. Today, leaders (including elders, pastors, even “the senior pastor”) must intentionally seek mutually interdependent relationships with others in the church.
These mutual relationships should include all aspects of life – thus, the term “mutual” – including teaching, admonishing, leading, etc. In other words, for a “leader” to live mutually with others, he or she must also be led. For a “teacher” to live mutually with others, he or she must also be taught. For a “shepherd/pastor” to live mutually with others, he or she must also be shepherded (if that’s a word).
Earlier, I said that leaders must be intentional about living in mutual relationships. Modern church culture automatically places a divide between “leaders” (especially those with official titles) and “non-leaders” – whether this divide is intentional or not. In order for leaders to live in mutual relationship with others, they must intentionally break through this divide, showing themselves to be interdependent with other believers, primarily by showing that they need the other believers in their own lives.
Why are these intentionally mutual relationships important for leaders? For their maturity and for the maturity of the church (i.e. all believers in the church). I’ve already demonstrated that mutual relationships are necessary if believers are to grow in maturity toward Christ.
Thus, when we read that elders are to be “able to teach,” we must not interpret that as “only elders are to teach.” Why? Because this dissuades mutuality and thus hinders maturity. The same could be said for any spiritual gifting or service. Also, if everything in the “worship service” (church meeting) seems to depend upon you, then you must work towards less dependency and more interdependency.
These are steps that only leaders can take in most cases. So many Christians have been taught that to question leaders (especially those with titles) is the same as questioning God. Leaders must show themselves to be humble, needy people who depend upon both God and other believers to help them mature in Christ. Those of us who are leaders among the church must lead the way by living mutually interdependent lives, for our own maturity, for the maturity of the church, and as an example to others.