the weblog of Alan Knox

Yes, we’re all equal in Christ, but whose name is on the sign?

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 in blog links | 19 comments

I’ve noticed something over the last seven (almost) years that I’ve been blogging: posts about leadership among the church typically get a huge (often emotional) response from all sides of the issue. I’ve written several posts and several series of posts about leaders, elders, etc. among the church. Those posts tend to get the most comments and the most push back – again, from all sides of the issue.

I don’t write posts for these reactions, but those are the reactions that I typically get. And, as I read posts about church leaders on other blogs, I’ve noticed the same kind of reactions – regardless of the author’s views on the church and leadership.

In other words, regardless of what we say, we care alot about what people think, say, and write about church leaders. Why? Because we recognize that among the church today, leaders carry alot of weight… they have alot of influence… they often have control and power over people (even if they don’t want to)… their name is on the sign (even if it’s a little smaller than Jesus’ name).

I was thinking about this fact (the fact that leaders carry alot of weight among the church) over the last few days when I browsed through several really good posts about leaders. Here are several of them:

And, of course, earlier this week I published a post called “The changing face of full-time ministry.”

Because of my views on leaders among the church, I’m often charged with believing that there should be no leaders at all.

If by “leader” you’re talking about a hierarchy of control, power, responsibility, vocation, and service that is reserved for a few among the church who function on behalf of the church, then, yes, I’m in favor of removing that kind of leadership. I think the church would be healthier without those kinds of “leaders.”

If by “leader” you’re talking about mature followers of Jesus Christ who lives and words are a demonstration and example of what every believer should be like and who are among the church and function along with the church, then, no, I’m not in favor of removing that kind of leadership. In fact, I think the church would be far healthier with more and more of these kinds of leaders.


19 Comments

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  1. 2-22-2013

    I was just reading lats night in 1 Thess

    And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.(1 Thess 1:6-7)

    That is leadership in the New Testament, teaching by example and demonstration.

  2. 2-22-2013

    I think these posts get the most comments because an argument can be made on both sides and have been made for some time. Personally, I think it is very difficult to read the NT at face value and suggest that there aren’t leaders in place and that these are really just mature Christians who lead by example. Of course that is true, but I would argue there is a reason men were singles out and mentioned in the texts. When I read the text of scripture saying, “go to the elders” or “go tell James” etc I think it is because they were leaders. There most certainly other mature believers in the Church with James, Peter, Timothy, etc. The text doesn’t say go find a mature believer, it says go to a specific person or an elder. That is just how I read it in Acts and the letters particularly. Now, I am absolutely not suggesting that what we have in the pages of the NT is the “Senior Pastor” or even sole pastor model. In fact, I would argue that scripture suggests the opposite — leadership by deacons and elders. Even this is getting increasing push back today. I think that is due largely to the abuse of the sole pastor model or the general abuse of leadership in the Church today. We are a sinful people and many of us do not lead well. We are also not very good at being led many times. This doesn’t mean, though, that we should simply avoid leadership. Again, I think you need to do perform major gymnastics with the text to say ELECTED and/or SELECTED leadership is not present there. Now, often times this makes us uncomfortable. We say nobody should have a role or office or position etc, etc. I would argue that not every mature believer in the NT was a deacon or elder. So, no matter how uncomfortable that makes us, I don’t think we can escape the reality of their presence in scripture. The important thing is HOW this leadership is supposed to play out. We are talking about servant leadership, not rigid hierarchy and oppression. This is the challenge for sinful, prideful people. Like us.

  3. 2-22-2013

    Rob, I think Alan’s point is not that we don’t need leaders but that we need to reevaluate things like: why were certain men recognized as leaders, why do we have leaders, how did they function?

  4. 2-22-2013

    Rob wrote:

    “The important thing is HOW this leadership is supposed to play out. We are talking about servant leadership, not rigid hierarchy and oppression.”

    and Alan wrote:

    “If by “leader” you’re talking about mature followers of Jesus Christ who lives and words are a demonstration and example of what every believer should be like and who are among the church and function along with the church, then, no, I’m not in favor of removing that kind of leadership. In fact, I think the church would be far healthier with more and more of these kinds of leaders.”

    I agree with both of you. I think everybody can agree that leaders are a great thing. We need leaders – true, godly, mature leaders!! And there are so so so so few of them around!!!! True godly leadership looks nothing like what I see around me in most ‘churches’. Amazingly enough, the last church ‘leadership team’ I was apart of was chosen because of skillsets alone (one for computer skills, one for art skills, one for accounting skills, the main one above all the others because of speaking skills). A shocking contrast to what I was reading in the Word about what leadership IS.

  5. 2-22-2013

    Arthur,

    Thanks for the comment and for linking to my post. I think that 1 Thessalonians is a great (but often overlooked) example of leadership among the church (instead of over the church). 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 is a direct instruction about this subject.

    Rob,

    From what I can tell, I agree with you. I think the “selection, election, recognition” step is for the benefit of the church as a whole, not for the leaders themselves. In order to be “selected, elected, recognized” these people are already living as leaders among the church (which shows that leading is not limited to those so recognized). But, when we recognize someone together, we are pointing out who we believe are good examples living among us.

    Randi,

    I agree with both of us too. Thanks for the example about selecting “leaders” based on skillsets. I think you could add education and previous employment to skillset as a reason leaders are often selected or recognized.

    -Alan

  6. 2-22-2013

    There is a church in our town that had a huge billboard up a few years ago. Jesus was not mentioned at all but a picture of the man in charge took up almost half the billboard. They had to take the billboard down when he left.

  7. 2-22-2013

    Just for the record there are some currently serving as “professional pastors” whose name isn’t on any signs – at all. Some of us are not interested in establishing ministries in our name either. Yeah, you can find us tucked away on the back of the bulletin or on a page of a website, but that’s about all. We don’t do all the praying or visiting. We aren’t looking to have it “our way.” We just want to care for and edifying God’s people the best we can.

    With that said, I certainly I understand the issue raised in the post.

  8. 2-22-2013

    I’m reading “What Jesus Started” by Steve Addison (great guy), and there was one quote I enjoyed; he points out that leaders should not e chosen for their gifts and abilities, but for their obedience. He also points out that God has always used unqualified, inexperienced and under-resourced people for his movement.

    – Kathleen

  9. 2-22-2013

    Fred,

    I’ve seen some of those.

    Scott,

    I know many leaders like that. A person in a particular position may not be a real leader; but, on the other hand, a person in a particular position MAY be a real leader.

    Kathleen,

    I don’t think I’ve heard of that book before. Thanks for mentioning it.

    -Alan

  10. 2-25-2013

    Hi Alan – It’s been awhile….

    And remember – Jesus instructed His Disciples NOT to be called “Leader.”
    For you have “ONE” Leader – The Christ. Mat 23:10 NASB

    And – NOT one of His Disciples called themselves “Leader.”
    And – NOT one of His Disciples called another Disciple “Leader.”

    ALL of “His Disciples” called themselves “Servants.”

    It was after I left “The Corrupt Religious System” that I realized
    Isaiah had prophesied about my leadership skills. ;-)

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

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

  11. 2-25-2013

    Amos,

    Thanks. I agree with you on almost everything you said. However, you said, “And – NOT one of His Disciples called another Disciple ‘Leader.'” If you’re referring to a title of “Leader,” then you’re correct. If you’re talking about leading as a function, then you’re not right. There are several passages in the New Testament when one of Jesus’ disciples says that other of Jesus’ disciples lead. I’ve shared these passages with you before: 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 1 Timothy 5:17, Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:17.

    “Leading” is not the problem. The problem is leading in a way other that how Jesus said to lead:

    “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 ESV)

    For Jesus, serving is leading.

    -Alan

  12. 2-26-2013

    Alan

    Yes, we’ve gone over this a few times before – Oy Vey!!!
    It’s always a pleasure talking with you about the things of God.

    And, with reading your blog these last few years, it’s hard for me to believe that you, Alan Knox, want to be known as “The Greatest.” ;-)

    Because, it seems, in the verse you mentioned, Luke 22:26, Jesus is talking to “His Disciples” who are having a dispute about which of His Disciples is “The Greatest.” Yes?

    Luke 22:24-27 ESV
    24 And there arose also a dispute among them
    as to which one of them was regarded to be *Greatest.* (Sounds like – Hierarchy)

    25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them;
    and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’

    26 *But it is not this way with you,*
    but the one who is *The Greatest* among you
    must become like the youngest,
    and the leader like the servant.

    27 For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table
    or the one who serves?
    Is it not the one who reclines at the table?
    But I am among you as the one who serves.

    In my experience…
    There are many, who do NOT mind, even desire, to be known, or recognized…
    As *a Leader.* Or, Even a “Leader” among the church because they serve.

    Then, to be consistant with Luke 22:24-27 ESV,
    If Jesus is saying, it’s okay to recognize and consider oneself a “Leader?”
    Then Jesus is saying, it’s okay to recognize and consider oneself “The Greatest?”

    Should we also regard, recognize and designate, those who are
    “The Greatest” among the church?

    Would it be a benefit to teach folks – Yes – You can be known as “The Greatest?”
    As long as you – “become like the youngest?”

    And, instruct folks with – We need folks in the Body who are “The Greatest.”

    And, We will be haveing a special two week long conference in June…
    For those who recognize they are called to be “The Greatest” among the church.

    ;-)

  13. 2-26-2013

    Amos,

    You keep getting stuck on “wanting to be known as”… “wanting to be called”… “wanting to have a title.” I’m not interested in that at all. Instead, look at Luke 22:26 again:

    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 ESV)

    My goal is not to be “known as” the greatest or to be called a leader. My goal to be as the youngest and to serve others.

    So, do you agree that in the NT disciples of Jesus do call others leaders and say that others lead (in the verses that I referenced, for instance)? That was the point that I was making in my comment.

    -Alan

  14. 2-26-2013

    Alan

    You write…
    “My goal is not to be “known as” the greatest or to be called a leader.
    My goal to be as the youngest and to serve others.”

    Yes, I believe you – Then we can just become like the youngest and serve others.
    That sounds good to me. ;-)

    But, there are many who want to be called leader – and many who want a leader – And to look to that one who is the leader – And in that process – They do NOT look to Jesus – The “ONE” leader – They allow a human to come between them and their God. Jesus, The “ONE” Leader.

    And, we can be like His Disciples who heard Jesus say…
    There is “ONE” leader – Jesus – And ALL disciples called themselves “Servants.”
    So, it’s okay to call your self “Servant of God” His Disciples did.

    And, In my very humble opinion – Most folks understand
    “Servant” to be a low place. – And “Leader” to be a high place.

    And, Jesus humbled Himself, Made Himself of NO reputation
    And took on the form of a “Servant.” Phil 2:7-8. That also sounds good to me.

    Now, over and over again, I repeat what Jesus said, “ONE” leader – Jesus. ;-)

    And the Greek words translated leader in the ESV, “proistemi” and “hegeomai,” Is a whole lot different then how folks today understand “leader.”

    Leader – Dictionary – “The person who leads or commands a group,”
    Command – Dictionary – “give an authoritative order”

    So, leader today means – someone who leads a group giving authoritative orders.

    No thanks – tried that stuff a few times…
    Did NOT work out so well having humans as leaders. They stinketh… :-(

    Think I’ll stick with Jesus as the “ONE” Leader. ;-)
    Jesus is the best leader – Yes?

  15. 2-26-2013

    Alan

    You mention these verses having to do with leaders…
    “1 Thessalonians 5:12, 1 Timothy 5:17, Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:17.

    And I like the KJV for 1 Thes 5:12, and 1 Tim 5:17.

    1Thess 5:12 KJV
    And we beseech you, brethren, to *know them (perceive, discern, discover)
    which labour among you, and are “over you” in the Lord, and admonish you;

    1 Tim 5:17 KJV
    Let the elders that “rule” well be counted worthy of double honour,
    especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

    I never met anyone who thought they were a qualified elder who “Ruled Well.”
    But that’s another topic for another day. ;-)

    And “over” in 1 Th 5:12, and “rule” in 1 Tim 5:17, is Strongs # 4291 – proistemi.
    Which has a much different flavor then how we understand “Leader” today.
    You know, when some “lead,” then some “follow,” – The Leader, The Greatest.

    Thayers has “proistemi” as…

    1- to set or place before. 1a- to set over.
    1b- to be over, to superintend, preside over.
    1c- to be a protector or guardian. 1c1- to give aid.
    1d- to care for, give attention to.

    And that is a lot different then what people understand ‘leader” to mean – today.

    In the NKJAV it reads – (That’s the – New King James Amos Version) ;-)

    1 Thess 5:12 NKJAV
    And we beseech you, brethren, to know them, check them out, discern their heart, which labour among you, and are “over you,” protecting you, guarding you, giving aid to you, are caring for you, and giving attention to you, in the Lord, and admonish you, warn and exhort you, –

    1 Tim 5:17 NKJAV
    Let the elders that “rule well,” protect you well, guard you well, give aid to you well, care for you well, and give attention to you well, be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

    So, “proistemi” is a whole lot different then how folks today understand leader.

    Leader – Dictionary – “The person who leads or commands a group,”
    Command – Dictionary – “give an authoritative order”

  16. 2-26-2013

    Alan

    You also mention, Heb 13:7, Heb 13:17, in reference to leaders.

    Now, this Greek word for leader is “hegeomai” and is translated in the KJV as…
    KJV – count 10, think 4, esteem 3, have rule over 3, be governor 2

    Have the rule over, or leader, is only three times. ALL in Heb 13.

    Thayers has “hegeomai – To Lead.
    But, “hegeomai” can also mean – To go before.
    And, “To Go Before” is a lot different then how we, today, understand, “To Lead.”

    And, “hegeomai” in the KJV is also translated as – Esteem.

    Yeah – Esteem – Go figure… ;-)

    Php 2:3KJV
    Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;
    but in lowliness of mind let each *esteem* other better than themselves.

    Heb 11:26 KJV
    *Esteeming* the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt…

    So, “hegeomai” is also a lot different then how folks today understand leader.

    Leader – Dictionary – “The person who leads or commands a group,”
    Command – Dictionary – “give an authoritative order”

    And, I believe you have written a few posts about Heb 13:17. Seems there is much controversey how these words are translated and understood today.

    Heb 13:17 ESV
    Obey your “leaders” and submit to them,
    for they are keeping watch over your souls…

    Heb 13:17 KJV
    Obey them that have “the rule over you,” and submit yourselves:
    for they watch for your souls…

    Here is Heb 13:17 NKJAV – In the “New King James Amos Version.”

    Heb 13:17 NKJAV
    Trust, have confidence in, be persuaded by and obey those you esteem,
    those who watch and are attentive to your soul…

    I’m appreiative of you Alan for allowing this discussion – Even when we dis-agree.

    BUT – I’ve never met anyone, who want to be leaders in, or among the church…
    Who thought it was important to watch and be attentive to my soul…
    When we dis-agreed… :-( Sigh…

    Even in the blogosphere – They cut you off – Delete you – Ban you…
    Accuse you of having an agenda – Only post part of a comment…
    Anything but answer the questions…

    NO – when dis-agreed with – Leaders – NO longer consider your soul important.
    Seems Jesus is the “ONE” leader – Who thinks my soul is important…
    And Jesus is the “ONE’ leader – Who loves me NO matter what…

  17. 2-26-2013

    Amos,

    I think that “rule over” or even just “over” (in 1 Thessalonians 5:17) is a bad translation of hegeomai. Most translators after the KJV translators agree with me.

    But, either way, I’m surprised that you prefer “rule over” to “lead.”

    -Alan

  18. 2-27-2013

    Alan

    I agree with you about “over” “proistemi” in 1 Th 5:12, and “rule” “proistemi” in 1 Tim 5:17, are NOT fully explained, or made understandable, in both the KJV and ESV. Personally I do NOT like either version because “proistemi” also includes the understanding of – protecting, guarding, giving aid, careing for, giving attention to. Which does NOT come across in the English “over” and “rule.” That’s why I wrote the NKJAV. ;-)

    1 Thess 5:12 NKJAV (New King James Amos Version)
    And we beseech you, brethren, “to know them,” check them out, discern their heart, which labour among you, and are “over you,” protecting you, guarding you, giving aid to you, are caring for you, and giving attention to you, in the Lord, and admonish you, warn and exhort you, –

    1 Tim 5:17 NKJAV (New King James Amos Version)
    Let the elders that “rule well,” protect you well, guard you well, give aid to you well, care for you well, and give attention to you well, be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

    How does this NKJAV version fit with your understanding of Greek?

    What I was referring to, and NOT very well it seems, is in 1 Thess 5:12 KJV where it says – “To Know Them” …who are “over you.” In 1 Thess 5:12 ESV, it says – “To Respect Them” … who are “over you.” To me that is a big difference.

    1 Tim 5:17, in the KJV and the ESV are pretty much the same.

    Seems, 1 Thess 5:17 KJV, gives believers the right to check out wanna-be leaders.
    To Know, To Perceive, To Discern, To Discover, what spirit they are coming from…

    In 1 Thess 5:17 ESV, it sounds like believers are required “To Respect Them” …who are “over you” NO matter what they are doing or saying just because they have a “title” and tell you – they are “over you.”

    So – Pastor/Elders/Overseers who are addicted to Exercising Authority…
    And – Pastor/Elders/Overseers who Abuse…
    Get a free ride.

    They repeat Heb 13:17, – A Lot – Obey your Leaders…
    And that’s me, the pastor.

    Then tell you: You have “To Respect Them” who are “over you.”
    And that’s me, the leader.

    And you have the beginning of “Spiritual Abuse”

  19. 2-27-2013

    Amos,

    I’m not a fan of “amplified” type translations. Those translations give the reader the misconception that words can carry many different meanings in the same usage.

    In the context of the New Testament (especially given the limitations provided by several authors), I would say that “lead/guide” (as opposed to “lead/rule”) is the better translation for proistemi and similar verbs.

    There is another Greek verb that can only mean “rule.” It’s never used to refer to the relationship between God’s children in the New Testament.

    -Alan

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