Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Required reading before any discussion of leadership or governance in the church

With the recent blow-ups in the blogosphere over charges that congregationalism is from the Enemy and the constant din of clergy claiming the privilege of being deferred to, something serious is overlooked. We read various words in Scripture like “leader” or “ruler” and assume that our understanding of those words is what the authors of the Scriptures intend. It is becoming apparent to me that we have completely missed the boat on church leadership and governance because we have misinterpreted Biblical leadership. Alan Knox put up what, with no hyperbole intended, is one of the few truly must read blog posts I have seen in a long time. Before we can get to talking about congregationalism vs presbyertianism or single or plural elders or pastor-theologians or servant-leaders, we need to get one thing straight:

When the Bible speak of leaders, it is talking about serving. Period.

Not who is in charge. Not who we have to listen to. Not who makes decisions.


Here is part of what Alan wrote in What does it mean to lead among the church?:
As we consider what it means to lead from the perspective of Scripture, there are a few points that we should start with. First, the writers of the New Testament never use the term for “ruler” when referring to a follower of Jesus Christ, despite some unfortunate translations especially of Hebrews 13:17. Second, the authors of the New Testament never say that one brother or sister is “over” another brother or sister (or a group), again despite some unfortunate translations especially of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13. Third, in Scripture, leading is never about making decisions for others.

So, what is leading among the church? According to Jesus, there is one overriding trait of any who lead among the church. What trait is that? Service. I’m not talking about “servant-leadership;” I’m talking about service. As Jesus said, “Let the greatest among you be as the youngest and the leader as the servant.” (Luke 22:26) Jesus, as the ultimate leader, said of himself, “Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28). It is perhaps most important that these last two statements were made in the context of two of Jesus’ followers jockeying for position among the others.

Thus, if someone wants to be a leader among the church, they must begin (and end) with serving others. When people begin following your example of serving others, then you are a leader in the way that Jesus defined leadership. Also, when you follow someone because they are serving others, then you are following a leader in the manner that Jesus instructed. For the church, leading = serving. Nothing more, and nothing less.
I think a lot of the kerfuffle over governance and leadership is driven by trying to decide who is “in charge” in the church. That question has already been answered for us. Jesus is in charge. All authority has been given to Him. We are not called to rule over his church or His people or to squabble about budgets or music styles. We are called to go and make disciples, serving others and proclaiming the Gospel. None of that requires us to make impassioned arguments about who is in charge. If we would spend more time seeking ways to serve others, I am confident that the question of who is leading would sort itself out quite easily.

1 comment:

Alan Knox said...


Thanks for the very kind words. I am humbled that you would speak so highly of my post.