I struggled with what to name this post. I almost called it “Does the Church Overemphasize Leaders.”
A few days ago, I was talking with a friend about leadership among Christians as represented in Scripture. My friend made an interesting observation. He said, “Scripture talks about leaders far less than the church today talks about or relies upon leaders.”
I think my friend is right. So, I started thinking to myself, “Is the church today top heavy?” As I thought about it, I determined that I could answer that question, “Yes,” or I could answer it, “No.”
In one sense, the church is top heavy today because of the emphasis that is place on specific leaders. In many churches, leadership functions are reduced to the giftings and abilities and talents and time and energy and resources of one man (or a few men, at most). In this sense, the church is not top heavy in numbers, but it is top heavy in emphasis. Leaders receive more of the emphasis and attention.
When a decision has to be made (or someone wants a decision made – there is a difference), the church turns to their leader(s). When a question is raised, the leader(s) is expected to provide the answer. When there is a problem or struggle, everyone expects the leader(s) to provide the solution.
This is “top heavy” in the sense that roles and responsibilities are falling on the shoulders of leaders today, while in Scripture we see the entire church tackling these decisions, questions, and problems.
On the other hand (and in another sense of the term “top heavy”), our modern, traditional church structure indicates that the church is not as top heavy as we see in Scripture. Again, we tend to see one person or a few people leading. These people are responsible for the teaching, discipling, admonishing, training… pretty much everything that the church does in Scripture. We relegate other (non-necessary) duties to non-leaders.
In Scripture, we see something different. Everyone takes part in teaching, discipling, admonishing, training, etc. The entire church works together to serve their community and proclaim the gospel to those how are not believers. Thus, many, many more took part in “leadership” in the examples that we see in Scripture. In other words, when it comes to number of people functioning, the church today is not as top heavy as the church in Scripture.
So, yes, today the church is top heavy in the emphasis that is placed on one leader or a few leaders. But, the church is not top heavy when it comes to the functions that every believer should take part in.
In fact, as you can probably tell, these two senses of “top heavy” work together. Since we emphasize one leader or a few leaders, then others are not required to (or even allowed to) function as they should. And (to look at it another way), since everyone is not functioning as they should (to build up one another together), then one or a few have to bear the brunt of the responsibility.
Either way you look it, it’s a problem.