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Friday, July 27, 2012
In my first post on this topic I challenged my readers to check out my claim (which many may think is radical and utterly false!) by what the scriptures clearly teach on this subject. Those who have been willing and have taken the time to list all scriptural references to the words “lead”, “leadeth”, “leading”, “led”, “leader”, “leaders”, “leadership” and words of similar meaning such as “guide”, “guides”, “guidance” , “direct”, “direction” and “directors” etc will be well aware that all such references in scripture are roughly divided into two groups: -those referring to God as the leader or guide of his people and those referring to mortal men who lead others.
Firstly, You will have found, as I did, that there are roughly 90 instances in Old and New testaments where God leads, directs or guides. He leads in the right way, in His way, in the way we should go, in light and truth, beside still waters, in paths of righteousness, to keep his statutes, in a plain path, in safety, in the way everlasting, into the way of peace, into the land of uprightness, by the springs of water, in the way of wisdom and in right paths. He leads His own sheep out, gently leading those that are with young, He leads from evil, into blessing, into all truth, to repentance, into the love of God, into patient waiting for Christ and finally unto living fountains of waters and wiping all tears from His people’s eyes.
Secondly, You will have found, as I did, that there are about 50 references in all the scriptures when mortal men lead, guide or direct. In only about 10 of those instances was such leadership of benefit and blessing. Those cases were only when Old Testament people were lead by Gods appointed leaders such as Moses and Joshua, when Israel was lead into battle by divinely appointed leaders and captains and once in the New Testament when Saul of Tarsus was lead by the hand when he was physically blind.
In all the rest of the cases of mortals leading or guiding, Jeremiah’s declaration is most appropriate: “I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” And the prophet Micah warns us all, “Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide.” Apart from mortal men being specifically appointed to leadership by God Himself, leadership by mortals is always “into a way that is not good”, i.e. God’s people are lead by mortal men into captivity or prison, into error, wickedness, destruction or death, into judgment before governors, councils or their enemies. The blind lead the blind into the ditch, into
or into idolatry. Babylon
Thirdly, It is most important to notice that not once in all the NT is any mortal man or woman appointed by God to the responsibility of leading, guiding or directing other people.
Furthermore, if one is actually going to lead others, it is crucial that the leader have the trust or confidence of those who are lead. So a study of all that the scripture has to say regarding where our trust or confidence should be placed is most instructive…
Fourthly, If you were to look up all the instances in scripture of the various forms of the words “trust” and “confidence” you would find about 130 scripture passages which declare that God alone is worthy of our trust, instruct us to place our confidence in Him and describe the many blessings and benefits of doing so.
And Fifthly, by way of contrast, there are about 60 instances where we are forbidden to place our trust or confidence in man, in his gods, his wealth, his wisdom and where the follies, curses, harm and destruction of doing so are clearly described. Among these are many instances of warnings about trusting a friend or even your self!
It is for all five of these reasons above that I maintain that leadership by mortal men or women in the
is a myth without any scriptural support! When men or women are appointed to or assume leadership in the church it is a sure sign of rebellion against Christ and disobedience to the Word of God! While these words seem very harsh and critical, I also want to make clear that I do not believe that everyone who has been appointed to or has assumed positions of leadership in the church are wilfully and knowingly rebelling against God and His Word. Likely the vast majority, like myself for many years, are simply following a religious culture which has been steeped for centuries in a “leadership” mentality and believes that such is entirely Biblical! church of Jesus Christ
I am simply saying that it is high time to search out the foundations of this teaching, recognize it for what it is, reject it and return personally and corporately to the scriptural mindset of being followers of God as dear children! As each of us radically adjust our thinking to acknowledge and follow only One Leader, our Lord Jesus Christ we will exert a far greater influence than any professed “leader” ever could! If each of us purposes to be the best follower of Christ that we can possibly be, we will in turn become examples to encourage other saints and those who do not yet know our Saviour to also follow Him.
(more to follow in the next post regarding followers of Christ exerting powerful influence on others by example. But let me encourage you to “flesh out” this subject for yourself and others by your own comments questions and observations in “comments” below or in personal emails to me at email@example.com)
Friday, July 20, 2012
I must confess that for many years I myself propagated the myth of church leadership! Actually, there are many myths (in bold type below) which are associated with “church leadership”.
I highly regarded the separate class of the “clergy” which was appointed and “ordained” to lead the “laity”. I attended and graduated from Bible school where I was trained in “homiletics” (which I was falsely informed was “the art of sermon preparation and delivery”). I served as a “pastoral intern” in preparation for “entering the ministry”. I was “ordained” a “clergyman” and given the highly respected title of “Reverend”. Not long after that I was “installed” as “the pastor” of a mission church in the
West Indies. Here I was elevated to an elite place of ministry (“the pulpit”) above other believers and appointed to teach in a Bible school which was established to train other “church leaders” for “the ministry”!
But even then (the late 1970’s) the Lord was beginning to shake my concepts of “church leadership”:
- I began to be troubled every time I stood in the pulpit to lead (i.e. monopolize a “service”). I became deeply burdened realizing that the very fact that I was the appointed speaker meant that every other believer was virtually muzzled! They could not function (in stirring one another up to love and good works and exhorting one another) as God intends when His people assemble together! (Hebrews 10:24,25)
-I eventually realized that instead of a church hiring one “pastor” from outside the congregation to commence his ministry among them, God had designed an assembly of His people to be cared for by a plurality of elders/overseers/shepherds who were raised up within that gathering, well known by them and recognized by the saints by the work that those men were already doing! (Acts 14:23, 20:28, I Timothy 3 and Titus1)
But for many years I still firmly believed that such elders/overseers/shepherds (of which I was regarded as one) were to be the leaders of the church, were to be appointed to be the primary speakers as well as to appoint or invite others to lead the saints by giving pulpit ministry.
I also believed that there were certain “church leaders”, “full-time Christian workers” or “translocal servants” such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers who were to be paid or “supported financially”. But scripture never teaches any these things!
But I am just now beginning to realize that the practice of all of the above ideas (in bold type) denies many truths stated plainly in scripture. They deny…
- the priesthood of every believer (I Peter 2:5-10),
- the giftedness of every believer for ministry (I Peter 4:10,11; Romans 12:3-13; I Cor.12:7-27),
- the leadership of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer (Ps.23,2,3; 25:5; 27:11; 139:24; Isaiah 40:11; 48:17; 55:4; John 10:3; Romans 2:4; 8:14; Rev.7:17)
- the promise of divine provision for the needs of every believer who purposes not to hoard, save or stockpile for their own future but who rather gives generously to meet the needs of others as he/she is able. This provision is promised regardless of one’s gifting or function in the Body! (Phil.4:19 with 4:13-16; Acts 2:45; 4:35; and II Cor.8:11-15)
But perhaps even more, these myths about “church leadership” deny the facts that every believer from the youngest to the oldest, whether male or female, bond or free, Jew or Gentile, literate or illiterate…
-has all of the Father, all of the Son and all of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them (John 14:16-23) Therefore the impression, often given, that “church leaders” are nearer to God than the rest of us is simply not true!
-hears the voice of God (John 5:24; 8:47 & 18:37) has the anointing of God and is taught of God. (John 6:45; I Thess.4:9; I John 2:27) Therefore the impression, often given, that “church leaders” hear from God for the rest of us is simply not true!
But most important of all, these many myths about church leadership entrusted into the hands of mortal men or women deny many vital truths concerning the relationship of every believer with their crucified, risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ! These myths are practical denials of the following facts…
-Every believer has one mediator between God and themselves and one mediator of the New Covenant- the man Christ Jesus! (I Tim.2:5; Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) Therefore the impressions , often given, that we cannot meet with God, hear from God or speak with God apart from certain church leaders are simply not true!
-Every believer has just one Master and ought not to regard any other or submit to any other as “Master”, “Rabbi”, or “Father” nor to anyone who wishes to hold a place of preeminence or control over them. Those who are truly great among God’s people are happy simply to be “brothers” and “servants”! In Matthew 23:2-12 the Lord Jesus warns us of those who desire titles, control, preeminence and power over others.
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”
-Every believer has just one Lord and ought not to give allegiance to any other. To do so is to deny the Lord Jesus and to bring division into His Body.
Hear Paul’s reproof in I Cor.1:11-13 and his plea in Ephesians 4:1-6:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
-The Body of Christ has only one head! Therefore no one else has any right or authority to direct, to rule, to take charge over the lives or ministries of other saints or to hold others accountable to one’s self! In Colossians 1:18 Paul declares the headship of Christ
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
In Romans 14:12 he reminds us that our accountability is to God and not to men!
“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”
In the next couple of posts, I hope to set forth the dangers and detrimental effects which follow when ever mortal men lead God’s people, the great blessings which accrue when God leads and how we can adjust our own minds and hearts to become followers of the Lord Jesus rather than aspiring to be leaders of others.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Contrary to popular opinion, biblical churches have no earthly leaders!
Neither the Lord Jesus nor any of the apostles taught that anyone could become a “church leader”! Rather the Lord Jesus is our leader, our Lord, our Master and our Head. That being said, the position of “church leader” has already been filled and God is not taking any more applications for the job!
The Lord Jesus never concerned Himself with the matter of “leadership development”, assigning leaders to “take charge”, “fill positions” or “hold offices” and neither should we. But His priority of calling, training and sending followers (those who would follow Him) should still be our priority!
One whose goal is to be a leader is always concerned that he himself/she herself has a following. But one whose goal is to be a follower of Christ is only concerned that the Lamb has a following!
Those who seek to be leaders make sure that they give directions, instructions and assignments to others to insure that they maintain control over those who look to their leadership. But loyal followers of Christ listen to their Lord, obey what he says and simply teach others to do the same!
A body only has one head and it is the leader, the director, the guide of all the members. Neither the foot, the hand nor the mouth are equipped to lead. They are all equipped and designed to follow the head. So too, the Body of Christ has one head and, as each member follows him, the body functions as it was intended. But if the mouth, the right hand and the left foot each assumed “leadership” over different portions of the Body there would be utter confusion and the Body could not function as it was intended!
Is it any wonder that there is so much confusion, division and lack of co-ordination in the Body of Christ today? Multitudes of “church leaders” have usurped the place of the Head. Their followers are trained to listen to and obey their voice but are never trained to listen to and obey the voice of the One who purchased the church with His own blood!
Some objections which will be raised against what I am writing here include the following:
(1) Are not apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers given to the church to be leaders among God’s people?
No. Such gifts, just like any of the other gifts, are given so the body will be edified. But each gift and each member is to follow the Lord, their head. No apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher was ever instructed to lead, direct or be a head for any other members of the body.
(2) Are not elders (overseers) and deacons (ministers/servants) to be the leaders of the churches?
Elders and deacons have their God-given responsibilities and assignments to fulfil (just as every other member of the body does). But neither has been assigned the task of leadership! Traditionally, we have been taught that elders are leaders but the scriptures do not support this idea at all. Paul realized that elders would soon begin to think they were to be leaders rather than simply followers of the Lord Jesus. That is why he warned the elders at
Ephesus with these words: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the , which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:28-30 church of God
Being a follower is a humble task and a lowly assignment which does not naturally suit any one of us. We naturally want to “rise” to be recognized and acknowledged. Our flesh is not satisfied to simply be one follower among many. Knowing the tendency of the human heart, Paul warned the Ephesian elders to beware. Men not satisfied with following would soon aspire to be “leaders” and “would draw away disciples after them.”
From whom would those disciples be drawn away? From their true shepherd, the Lord Jesus who purchased them with His own blood! (Acts 20:28) Just as no man can serve two masters, no disciple can follow two leaders!
In the next few days I hope to develop this truth that every believer is to be a follower of Christ and not a leader. But in the mean time, feel free to write your own comments, questions, challenges. I trust that a healthy and edifying discussion of this vital topic may develop.
A brother in Christ,