Over the next few weeks I want to explore the concept of leadership in the new landscape. It will be an exploration, meaning this is uncharted territory and therefore may be new thoughts open to debate in all areas. Martin has touched on this theme as he has looked at Pentecost, I just want to push it a bit further. Leadership has been an area often studied and written about. Every church concept has some form of leadership. But I want to pose the question today, is any form of leadership truly Biblical? When Jesus came to earth and then went through the death and resurrection, when the day of Pentecost happened, did God have in mind any form of church structure and positions of leadership? These are questions we will begin to unpick. There will be more loose ends, but I think God loves loose ends. We like tying up, God loves untying.
Jesus on leadership
When it comes to leadership I first want to look at what Jesus had to say on the subject. Surprisingly nothing much. Yes he referred to the leaders of the ‘Old Covenant’ like Moses and David, but for those he called, his disciples, he just had one thing to say, and this he spoke out while talking to the pharisees and Sadducee’s.
Matthew 23:10 (NASV)
Do not be called leaders , for One is your leader, that is Christ
Others versions say do not be called teachers. What are we to make of a statement like this? Did Jesus really mean what He said? We take so much of what He says literally but then little throw away statements like this are great to ignore when we want to talk church structure and leadership structure. Of course there is church, and if there is church there must be someone in charge, leaders. The Bible even gives them titles, bishops, elders, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, deacons etc. Anyone with a bit of ambition and having the ‘call’ on their lives can train and work hard to become one of these. To lead God’s people into greater realms of God’s knowledge and blessing. Help God to build His church in the way that they as a leader interpret Scripture. Build bigger churches to teach and share God’s Word. Be the overseer and boss of the souls that God has given them. To sow vision because without it the people are going to perish. After all we must all be submitted under someone to be a fully functioning person. Without being under a leader we are in a place of rebellion and that has the roots in witchcraft. We must be part of some body of believers, and someone has to be in charge. Someone is the head, the shepherd, the eyes and ears. But hang on a minute. When Jesus talked about ekklesia He never mentioned any of this. When He talked about the best He would always flip the coin over and talk about the least.
Being great in God’s kingdom is being the servant of all
The sons of thunder had a nice pushy mum. She approached Jesus one day and asked if her two sons could sit on the best seats in heaven. One on the right and one on the left. Jesus reply must have taken the wind out of her sails. It is not about the best seats but about service He replied. Becoming the least. Becoming like little children. Getting to the back of the queue. Doing stuff in the unseen places. Washing feet. About dying not about living. Crosses not thrones. Giving up everything for one lost sheep. Not parading a title but being known simply as Jesus of Nazareth. Walking away from crowds rather than gathering. Walking in the margins not with the influential. Walking amongst not above. Serving, serving, serving…
His call, our call
Was it the Father’s heart to send Jesus as an amazing leader? What was His call? Was it to be King? Was it to be recognise as a Prophet? Was it to get thousands of disciples looking up to Him? Was it to obtain a position? If that was the case after three years of ministry Jesus failed. He was a ‘leader’ of a very fragmented ‘church’. People left Him in droves. People misunderstood Him. He would rather spend time with a few than with a multitude. He never chose the best to be His team. As a so called church growth expert He was a failure. His books would not have sold well. The mission of Jesus was not to be a leader and lord it over everybody.
I have not come to be served but to serve Matthew 20:28
We know Him as the servant King. But I think Jesus just wanted to be known as a servant, pure and simple. No big name in lights, no ordained ministry with His name in the minister’s handbook. Just the influencer of others to become servants too. To wear towels rather than crowns. To sit at feet rather than stand in pulpits. To be a servant and not the master. I believe Jesus is looking for people who will follow Him. I do not think He even wants to have servant leaders, He just wants servants. No titles, no ambitions, no heights to reach, just servants of God and servants of others. Lovers of God and lovers of people, not lovers of position. How many problems in church life are caused by positions and people in positions? Well other than the debate about what colour to paint the ceiling I would say all of them!!! Taking away the positions creates a level playing fields. Everyone serving together. Yes all functioning differently, but no one in charge. No more leadership pyramids, right way up or upside down. Just pure and simple service. To be continued…