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Two different types of leaders among the church?

Posted by on Nov 6, 2012 in blog links | 27 comments

Two different types of leaders among the church?

Jon at “Jon’s Journey” has written a very helpful post called “Leading the Way.” The post is a summary of all of his posts on leadership among the church. The posts cover many different aspects of that topic, and he puts them all together in a great way.

A few years ago, when I had only been blogging a couple of years, I recognized that my posts on leadership were often the most read and commented posts on my blog, even though I wrote about leadership much less than other topics. I think there are several reasons for that, but I won’t get into it here. I thought about that when I read this statement at the end of Jon’s post: “So as you can see I’ve invested some thought into this topic lately. But I don’t want this to be the main focus of my journey moving forward.”

But, I’d like for us to think about something that Jon says at the beginning of his post:

I see two different types of leaders in the church.

  • Those who make decisions for others to follow
  • Those who live their lives as examples that others follow

I know in many cases some people do a bit of both.

After you take the time to read through Jon’s post, and some of his linked posts, think about this:

Jon is right… there are two types of “leading” among the church. And, interestingly, both types of “leading” often get followed and followers.

Consider this question: What type of “leading” are you following? (And, if you think you’re not following anyone but Jesus – i.e., not learning from another’s example – then I think you’re probably fooling yourself.)


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-6-2012

    When/where Christ leads His, “those who make decisions for others to follow” would be on the outside looking in.

  2. 11-6-2012

    Your followup questions Alan got me thinking. When leaders lead by making decisions, they don’t really want us to follow their example, do they? They want us to follow the decisions they made. If everybody followed the example of the leaders making decisions, we’d have lots of people making decisions for others, and that wouldn’t work very well. I think many of us prefer making decisions than simply living by example. Maybe we’ve learned this behavior from the leaders we’ve followed.

    But yes, when people lead by example, everybody can choose to follow by doing what the leader is doing.

  3. 11-7-2012


    Possibly… or possibly they are in Christ, but don’t understand what it means to lead among the church.


    That’s a great observation. And, you’re right.


  4. 11-8-2012

    “possibly they are in Christ, but don’t understand what it means to lead among the church.”

    analogous to, ‘possibly my wife doesn’t understand what it means to be my wife’?

    Possible, though difficult to perpetuate within a genuine relationship?

  5. 11-8-2012


    I think it’s more analogous to the fact that I don’t always love my wife the way that I should, don’t always demonstrate it, and don’t always speak to her appropriately. But, she’s still my wife.


  6. 11-8-2012

    Alan, this may be a poor analogy if only because Christ will never be anyone’s wife.

  7. 11-8-2012


    Yes, any analogy will fail. But, in this case, I think it’s a good comparison. We remain in Christ even if our relationships are not healthy.


  8. 11-8-2012

    “We remain in Christ even if our relationships are not healthy.”

    Alan, would you ever suggest to someone they leave a relationship that is not healthy?

    Were there not 5 foolish virgins awaiting together the Bridegroom?

    There are no unhealthy relationships maintained in Christ, as real relational differences are being resolved promptly by His grace and power. “Those who [regularly] make decisions for others to follow” show themselves to be working an outside relationship that is contrary to Christ. Entering in to Him, by Him they will find to gracefully withdraw from repetitive defiance.

  9. 11-8-2012


    I making a distinction between being “in Christ” and “walking in Christ” (sometimes referred to as “walking the Spirit,” “walking in a manner worthy of your calling,” “walking worthy of the gospel,” etc.). I think this is a distinction that we see in Scripture. In fact, most (if not all) of the books of the New Testament were written to people who were already “in Christ,” and yet they need help and needed to help each other “walk in Christ.” Just think about the many problems among the believers in Corinth. There were certainly unhealthy relationships there, and yet Paul consistently refers to them as being “in Christ,” “saints,” “saved,” etc.


  10. 11-9-2012

    Alan, to this distinction you are making, I challenge you to give the 1st letter of John full exposure.
    Certainly the man stumbling with “his father’s wife” at Corinth would be named among the saints at Corinth; Judas Iscariot is also named among the 12, until…
    We are encouraged to be “walking in the Spirit”, that we might not be in our own devices left standing still.
    And do we not make a further distinction between stumbling (encountering “problems”) and to becoming (again) a slave to sin? Simon stumbles and the cock crows; Simon is soon restored (therein, he doesn’t continue in his denial).
    “those who make decisions for others to follow” then are not the same as someone who stumbles in a moment of presumption that he is above his brother in Christ. Like Simon Peter, he is to be restored. But those who continue practicing their sin are yet without Christ.

  11. 11-10-2012

    Hi Marshall, I’ll jump in. Although I agree with your concerns, where I’ve ended up on my journey so far is a realization that I am not a very good judge. There is quite a bit of Scripture warning us about judging our brothers. I think those stern warnings in those passage about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in Mark 3:22-30 and others are warnings against mislabeling God’s working in others as something other than from God. The teaches of the law had the nerve to say Jesus was working for the other kingdom – that is blasphemy. Scripture seems pretty clear we are to love each other and recognize unity in Christ.

    Does everyone have it all figured out? No. Does everyone agree with me? No. Do I have it all figured out? No.

    Is God gracious to those of us who haven’t figured it all out. Yes.

    Although I find it really easy to see faults in others, and I really do agree with your concerns here. I have a hard time judging who is in and who is out. I have to trust God will figure out how to judge it all in the end.

    Hope that helps. God bless!

  12. 11-10-2012

    Jon, Christ is the good judge; even Christ in you. Without His judgment, we would not know for whom to carry His Good News, or even whom to receive in Him.
    Paul reminds us that it is those in the ekklesia (our brothers), and not those outside, for whom we should be judging matters — and together.
    [I Corinthians 5]
    Throughout Judea, Jesus was willing to let the false know who they are with; to warn. We do likewise, accompanied by His appeal to all men that they might turn and be saved. You or me, by our own mind, do not need “have it all figured out” in order that His voice may still speak through us.
    God is gracious, even to Pharisees! Yet still, let us not test Him with a mind of flesh that would otherwise excuse what is grievous to Him and so not of Him.

  13. 11-10-2012


    Yes, I’ve considered John’s first letter. I do not believe that he is teaching anything different from the other authors of the NT. All who are in Christ will fail in following Christ (walking in him, obeying him, etc.) perfectly. But, like Paul, we all continue to seek perfection / maturity knowing that will only come after Jesus returns. In the same way, we can help one another follow him, which will often mean gentle, patient, careful teaching and example as we share our lives with one another.


    Yes, I share the same concerns. I’ve also learned after changing my own views after many, many years of knowing that I was right, that discipleship and maturity often take years… even for people who are in Christ and sincerely seeking to follow him.


  14. 11-10-2012

    Alan, you have written, “But, like Paul, we all continue to seek perfection / maturity knowing that will only come after Jesus returns.”

    This is a false teaching (commonly contracted via seminary). See as Paul writes to the saints at Philippi:

    “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect/mature/complete, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you”
    [Philippians 3:15]

    Waiting for the return of Christ to receive Him in full is to miss Him as surely as 5 foolish virgins. It is foolish reasoning to deny what God in Christ is calling His own today.

  15. 11-10-2012


    It’s not about receiving him in full. You should include the entire context in your quote:

    Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12-16)

    I’ll keep pressing on with Paul, holding true to what I have attained, and trusting God to reveal areas in my life where I am not mature. I have all of Christ, and everyone who is in Christ has all of him. But, Scripture is clear that no one perfectly follows him.


  16. 11-10-2012

    Alan, the additional context you present is helpful regarding the resurrection of the dead [vs 11]. Verse 15 poses our attitude in what things we have attained, or are attaining to [i.e., our resurrection in Christ].

    This being a common point of confusion. As we’re reminded, there is a maturity acquired in the resurrection; there is also our maturity in Christ today.
    Both and all by faith, though one is not the other.

  17. 11-10-2012


    I wouldn’t limit it to just the resurrection, since Paul included the resurrection in a list of many things: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Plus, notice that Paul said, “Let all who are mature ‘think’ this way.” He’s talking about a manner of thinking about yourself and Jesus Christ. This also recognizes that everyone is not mature in the way they are thinking, but Paul does not say that they are not “in Christ” because of this. This continues to support my position.


  18. 11-10-2012

    We follow with the life of Jesus Christ to understanding: He matured in Spirit as He walked the earth; he gained the victory over sin in the flesh, and subsequently the victory over death in His resurrection. To His resurrection, He was exalted & glorified in such a maturity/completion as to be then seated the Intercessor Redeemer-Judge.
    As we are also in Him, victory over sin and death. Maturity to grasp victory over sin today, even as you are in Christ and sojourn as He led the way — even as you take up your cross and follow Him. Victory over death for us also comes to us by Him in the resurrection.
    So then, be mature even as He was mature/complete; even as He directs.
    [Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 5]

    From Philippians 3:15, we would not be justified to assume Paul is resolved in separate classes of “mature” and “not mature” saints. But for those who are coming into Christ, we do receive by faith their maturing/maturity in Christ (just as we also perceive their resurrection from the dead by faith.) Love hopes all things, but not to the point of foolishness. If you have not turned from your sins, our hope will be that you turn from them that God may grant you Salvation.

    Yet in all this, let us not fail the point as marked: “those who make decisions for others to follow” are by this usurping Christ. So then, how may a man be taken as the King’s steward while he has consistently acted in willful disregard of the King’s authority into the present day?

  19. 11-10-2012


    You said, “those who make decisions for others to follow are by this usurping Christ.” I agree. But, then, whenever we do not obey Christ in our own lives, we are also usurping Christ. By the way, I’m not denying that “making decisions for others” is unhealthy for the church.


  20. 11-10-2012

    usurp: to seize and hold (as office, place, or powers) in possession by force or without right.

    consider 2 sons; the first sometimes forgets to do what he’s asked and is easily distracted away from his obedience. The second son is convinced of himself to make decisions for the household and does abuse his brother by this. Both sons are stumbling; one is acting as a rebel. Which of these truly understands what it means to be a son of the father?

  21. 11-10-2012


    Are you suggesting that we only sin (disobey) because we forget, never because we choose our own desires over the desires of God?


  22. 11-10-2012

    Alan, in the parable above, there is a son who sometimes forgets and/or has been distracted from his obedience. Have you been distracted from obedience? I know I have. Have you forgotten what you will be doing? I have done it.

    “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”
    [I John 2:1]

  23. 11-10-2012


    Yes, there are times when we forget or when we are distracted from obedience. But, I do not think forgetfulness or distraction explains all of our disobedience. In fact, I think James talked about Christians sinning because of their own desires… seems that Paul said something about that too. So, if someone who is “in Christ” chooses to sin based on their own desire instead of the desire of Jesus Christ, is that person usurping Christ?


  24. 11-10-2012

    James writes “to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad”, including language that we would not associate with anyone secure in Christ.

    “let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
    being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
    “…this man’s religion is worthless.”
    “if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
    “This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but it is earthly, natural, demonic.”
    “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
    “You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.”

    These and more, along with various appeals and admonitions, reflect a strong distinction being offered to a mixed audience.

    It is written, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
    [Psalms 37:4]

    Therefore, He has given His desires for mine in me. Take your delight in him, and the promise of His desires in you.

  25. 11-10-2012


    Yes, I think James was writing to followers of Jesus Christ: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” (James 2:1) At least, he considered his readers to be those who “hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”


  26. 11-11-2012

    Yes, the system would have you think so.
    it’s known as “deception” to look at the obvious facts as veiled.
    We appeal to you, Alan, and to your “Christian” associates, that you might by His Mercy come to know the genuine Christ.

    “…do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [perversely] effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but/and you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”
    [I Corinthians 6:9-11]

  27. 11-11-2012


    Are you saying I’m deceived because I accept what James wrote in James 2:1?