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When a leader is just one person among the church

Posted by on May 11, 2011 in discipleship, elders | 18 comments

When a leader is just one person among the church

Besides the focus on Sunday, there’s another dangerous practice that I think is hindering the church (in general) from growing and maturing in Christ.

What practice is that? The reliance on one person’s service. Or, in the case of a team of leaders, the reliance on only a few people’s service.

Among most churches, meetings (i.e., “worship services”) could not happen, programs could not be planned, teaching would not occur, discipleship would falter, the church would not be the church if the leader(s) were not present. This is a problem.

Instead, as we read in the New Testament, leaders are simply more mature believers among the church. They are not the basis of all service, teaching, etc. among the church. Are they important? Yes! Would the church “shut down” without them? Absolutely not!

And, the church would not have to find a “supply” preacher if one of the leaders became sick or was out of town. How strange that would seem to the church in the New Testament!

In order for this to change in the church today, two things would have to occur almost simultaneously: 1) Leaders would have to give up their control over everything that happens among the church, and 2) Others (non-leaders) would have to get out of the pews (or chairs) and begin serving one another.


18 Comments

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  1. 5-11-2011

    Hmmm? Leaders?

    Seems Jesus taught “His Disciples” NOT to be called “Master/Leader.” Mat 23:10 KJV

    **New American Standard Bible
    Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.

    **Amplified Bible
    you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ.

    **Good News Translation
    Nor should you be called Leader, because your one and only leader is the Messiah.

    **The Interlinear Bible
    Nor be called leaders, for one is your leader the Christ.

    **Phillips Modern English
    you must not let people call you leaders, you have only one leader, Christ.

    **The Message – Mat 23: 8-10
    Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father'; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.

    If Jesus taught “His Disciples” NOT to called leader, and NONE did,
    (Can you name one “Disciple of Christ” who called themself a leader?)
    and someone calls them self, or thinks them self, a “leader:”

    Are they a “Disciple of Christ?

    Or, Are they NO longer a “Disciple of Christ?” ;-)
    Or, Are they just a disobedient “Disciple of Christ?”

    Isaiah 9:16 KJV
    For **the leaders** of this people **cause thee to err; **
    and they that are **led of them** are destroyed.

    Isaiah 3:12 KJV
    …O my people, **they which lead thee** cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Micah 3:11 KJV
    The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof
    teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money …

    Think I’ll stick with Jesus as the one and only Shepherd and leader..

    Jeremiah 50:6 KJV
    **My people** hath been **lost sheep:**
    **their shepherds** have caused them to go astray…

    1 Pet 2:25*
    For ye were as sheep going astray;
    but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  2. 5-11-2011

    A Amos Love,

    You’ve been around here long enough to know that I’m not talking about titles. I’m talking about leaders the way that Jesus described leaders – i.e., those who serve others.

    -Alan

  3. 5-11-2011

    This topic is huge. The discussion alone registers on the Richter Scale.

    I think A-Love, hitting on the ‘title’, makes legitimate sense. There’s power in titles. It’s an American phenomenon. It adds weight to a position, or it can equally demean someone else. It’s amazing what a title does. Or a corner office. But, you’re right. The essence is simply about removing ‘control’ from the list of must-haves and allow for the Body to move per the Head’s request. Some thoughts:

    1. It makes people feel comfortable to know where they stand. If ‘that guy’s’ the leader, then I feel safe.
    2. If someone else is doing the ‘leading’, then they don’t have to.
    3. (this one is more internally related) Ministers have done a great job setting up a hierarchy, creating job security, and limiting access to the power in church, all for the sake of protecting their futures.

    In many ways we resemble a Catholic set up where we’d admit it or not. We’ve got this guy (or several guys) going to God on our behalf, telling us what to do, and making us wait with bated breath as to our next steps. We don’t train people to get up and move, nor do they always act like they want to, but you’re right…

    …it needs to happen in order to change things.

  4. 5-11-2011

    Jeph,

    Yes, the only change in the hierarchy of the church during the Reformation is that the hierarchy became localized. I’m not interested in a hierarchy of leadership at all. I’m interested in mature believers serving others… this is leading in the scriptural sense, as far as I can tell.

    -Alan

  5. 5-11-2011

    The sad thing Alan, is if you take away the pastor, building, sermon and programs, most “churches” would shut down. Most would not know what to do.

    You are absolutely correct in your last paragraph. It is very unlikely that an existing traditional church would embrace those two things. It goes against the very nature of institutional doctrine. However, I am seeing more and more individuals embracing true relational christianity.

  6. 5-11-2011

    Jack,

    It is very, very unlikely that an existing church (of any type) would change from focusing on the leader(s) serving to providing opportunity and means for all believers to serve. However, I’ve witnessed just that change… it’s still amazing.

    -Alan

  7. 5-11-2011

    Interesting to note that in the NT Church, there is always a plurality of elders. Boice pointed this out.

    While there were times when 1 person seemed to have the final say, as in Acts 15, none were a law unto themselves, as seen in Paul’s rebuking Peter when he became hypocritical and removed himself from fellowship with uncircumcised Christians.

    It is so easy for us to go to what McQuilkin termed comfortable extremes, while avoiding what he called “Biblical tension”. Case in point: submitting to Church leaders as in Hebrews 13:17, versus the priesthood of believers…

  8. 5-11-2011

    Paul,

    Yes, I agree that it’s important for several servants (i.e., people who are truly serving others) to be examples to the church. I think almost every believer would gladly follow the example of those servants (Heb 13:17). (Notice again, I’m talking about servants, not decision makers…) However, I think it’s dangerous for the church to rely on this group of leaders as well. Did one person actually have the final say in Acts 15?

    -Alan

  9. 5-12-2011

    Alan

    Yes, I’ve been reading for awhile. I love what you’re doing, and promoting, servanthood.

    BUT, I wasn’t talking about “Titles.” I was talking about “Disciples of Christ.”
    About Disciples being recognised, having a reputation, and being called “Leader.”
    And Jesus telling “His Disciples” NOT to be called “Leader.”

    I’ll ask the question again…

    If Jesus taught “His Disciples” NOT to called leader, and NONE did,
    (Can you name one “Disciple of Christ” who called themself a leader?)
    and someone calls them self, or thinks them self, a “leader:”

    Are they a “Disciple of Christ?

    If that is your only choice, Disciple of Christ – OR – leader…

    Which one do you choose?

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? ;-)

    If I’m known as a “Leader” why do I want people following me? And NOT Jesus?

    My belief now is – There are No mere fallible human leaders in “the Church of God.”

    Why follow a mere human when I can follow Jesus?

    You know the old bumper sticker…

    Don’t follow me… I’m lost too…

  10. 5-12-2011

    Alan

    For me, Jesus is my example…

    John 6:15 – When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force,
    to make him a “king,” he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

    Thayers has “king”(basileus) also as “leader of the people.”

    My advice now is: When they want to make you a leader; run, run as fast as you can.
    The snare, the trap has been set. Your *test* has begun…

    Jesus didn’t want that recognition or honor.

    Jesus also said…

    John 5:41 – I receive *not* honour from men.
    John 5:44 – How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another,
    and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

    When someone aknowledges you as a “Leader:” Are you “Receiving Honor” from men?

    Jesus also said…

    John 7:18 – He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory…
    John 8:50 – And I seek not mine own glory…

    When you let people know, you’re a “leader” is that seeking your own glory?

    If you’re a leader? Why do you want people to follow you? And NOT follow Jesus?

    Why not let people know you’re just a servant? And Jesus is the only “Leader.”

    Luke 16:15 – And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men;
    but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men
    is abomination in the sight of God.

    Seems to me “Leadership” is highly essteemed among men. Yes? NOT servanthood.

    Jesus loves me and forgives me all my sin…

  11. 5-12-2011

    A Amos Love,

    Jesus is my example also. You left out this passage where Jesus does talk about leaders:

    But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. (Luke 22:26)

    Again, this post is not about being called a leader. It is about serving others. These servants are the ones that Jesus calls leaders.

    -Alan

  12. 5-14-2011

    Alan – How does this sound?

    You mention “Leader” in Luke 22:26. This might be a conflict between Spirit and flesh.

    Luke 22:24-27 KJV
    There was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
    25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them;
    and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
    26 *But ye shall not be so:* but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger;
    and he that is *chief,* as he that doth serve. (hegeomai – chief, leader in some versions)
    27* For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth?
    is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.

    I’ve struggled with this verse also. What I see now, and I reserve the right to be wrong,
    is *the flesh* of “His Disciples” at work. Their *carnal mind,* at enmity against God,
    wanting to know “Who is the Greatest?” Just like us mere fallible humans in the flesh.

    Romans 8:5-8
    For they that are after the flesh do *mind the things of the flesh;* (who’s the greatest)
    but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. (in Christ we are “ONE.”)
    6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
    7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God:
    for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
    8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

    Jesus compares their desire to know who the greatest is with that of “The kings of the Gentiles” (king = leader of the people) who exercise lordship over them: then says “But you shall NOT be so.”

    Jesus never said they should see themselves as great, greater then others, or the greatest. He says, “but he that is greatest among you let him be as the younger.” If I see myself as “The Greatest” aren’t I in the flesh. Seems tongue in cheek to me.

    I don’t think Jesus is saying here it’s okay to be, or be called, – “The Greatest.” Do you?

    How would you feel about me when we meet and I introduce myself as Amos, who is letting you be like the older because I’m like the younger, always a servant and I’m “The Greatest.” ;-)

    Or you visit where I fellowship and others tell you about me, Amos. How Amos is always taking the lower place, acting as the younger, and they recognize me as “The Greatest.” And you are now obligated to recognize Amos as a younger servant who is “The Greatest.” That sounds kinda silly, doesn’t it?

    Who is “The Greatest” where you fellowship? Alan, are you considered “The Greatest?

    If it’s true, It’s NOT okay to think of myself as, or be called, “The Greatest.”
    (In the flesh? NOT humble?)
    Why would I think it’s okay to think of myself, or be called, “The Leader?”
    (In the flesh? NOT humble?)

    If Jesus is saying here, it’s okay to be called “Leader,”
    Why did NONE of “His Disciples ever call themselves, or take the position of, “Leader?”

    Seems to me, Jesus wants “His Disciples” living in the Spirit and NOT in the flesh. ;-)

    Flesh = worldly thinking = Greatest among you. He that is chief. The leader.

    Spirit = Kingdom thinking = Be as the younger. As he that doth serve. Servant of Christ.

    One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd – One Leader – “ONE” in Christ

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  13. 5-14-2011

    I’m with Amos on this…we are all brothers.

  14. 5-14-2011

    A. Amos Love and Hutch,

    I also agree that we are all brothers and sisters. There is no hierarchy among the people who are the body of Christ. However, Scripture does indicate that there will be leaders. I’m not talking about authority or titles or subjection or anything like that. I’m talking about mature brothers and sisters who serve others and live as examples. You can read about them in many passages and the term “leaders” is used. I mentioned Luke 22:26 already. But, you will also find the term “leaders” or the verb “leading” used in Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, and 1 Timothy 5:17 for example. In each case, “leader” or “leading” is used in a positive sense.

    Note that this does NOT mean that I agree with most of what is called Christian leadership or even servant-leadership today.

    -Alan

  15. 5-15-2011

    Alan – I’m familiar with the verses you mentioned containing leader. Seems Hegeomai and Proisthmi in the Greek has a much different flavor then today’s understanding of leader – I’m the boss and I’m the leader you follow me. Leader has that understanding. If some are leaders then others are followers following a mere fallible human. NO… Follow Jesus. He’s the best. ;-)

    Don’t know if you ever noticed this in 2 Chron 7:14. What do you think?

    If my people, – which are called by my name, – shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

    Isn’t God being specific here about who should humble themselves? Isn’t He asking those – which are called by my name, – to humble themselves? Turn from their wicked ways?

    Who are God’s people, who are “called” by “God’s Name” today? What about the names – Shepherd – Teacher – Leader – Reverend – ? Aren’t these – names – that God is called? Why do people want the same name as God?

    1 – God/Jesus is called – Shepherd.
    The Lord is my **shepherd.** Psalm 23:1.
    …returned unto the **Shepherd** and Bishop of your souls. 1Pet 2:25.

    2 – God/Jesus calls Himself – Teacher
    … for “One” is your Teacher, the Christ…Mat 23:8 NKJV.
    If I then, your Lord and Teacher… John 13:14 NKJV.

    3 – God/Jesus is called – Leader
    And do not be called leaders; for “One” is your **Leader,** that is, Christ.
    Mat 23:10 NASB.
    God exalted him at his right hand as **Leader** and Savior…
    Acts 5:31 ESV

    4 – God/Jesus is called – Reverend
    …holy and **reverend** is his name. Psalm 111:9 KJV

    So, What do you think about – Shepherds – Teachers – Leaders – Reverends – being those – which are called by my name – shall humble themselves? Aren’t these **names** that God is called? Are they taking “God’s Name” in vain?

    Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;
    for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
    Ex 20:7

    And one way of humbling ourselves is to repent for taking God’s name and
    NO longer calling ourselves what God calls Himself.

    NO longer calling ourselves: Shepherd – Teacher – Leader – Reverend.
    Those names belong to Jesus.

    Most don’t start out wanting to steal the glory, that belongs only to Jesus…
    They just don’t refuse it when it comes…

    What is popular is not always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is not always popular.

    I’m Blest – I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul… Jesus

  16. 5-15-2011

    A Amos Love,

    You said, “Seems Hegeomai and Proisthmi in the Greek has a much different flavor then today’s understanding of leader…”

    I agree completely, which is why I always specify what I mean and what I don’t mean when I use the terms “leader” and “leading.”

    -Alan

  17. 5-15-2011

    Hi Alan

    Nice talking to you in the moment.

    Do you have any thoughts about 2 Chron 7:14, and God being specific about who should humble themselves?

  18. 5-15-2011

    A Amos Love,

    2 Chronicles 7:14 is a call to Israel to remain humble. However, this call is continued to all of God’s children. A good example can also be found in Philippians 2:1-11. Yes, everyone who belongs to God is called to a life of humility… this includes those who Scripture calls leaders. Like you and I have both said, leading is not about being above anyone. In fact, it’s just the opposite. In Christ, leading is about putting yourself under others as their servant.

    -Alan

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