The forgotten art of exemplary leadership
In this particular study we will attempt to address what constitutes appropriate Christian leadership, that which was exemplified by Jesus Himself and those He called to be His followers. We will attempt to address the question as if from Jesus Himself, "How would you lead others to Me?"
1st principle of exemplary leadership: Leading others to Jesus
"For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake" [2 Corinthians 4:5]
Although in many instances forgotten, the purpose of any individual attempting to lead is to lead that individual or group of believers into a deeper dependency upon God through Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter whether the person is attempting to lead a Bible study, a teaching, small group lesson, an evangelistic campaign, a service project or any other "Christian" endeavor. The success or failure of all of the above will hinge directly upon the degree that the participants rely upon and depend upon Jesus for everything. As I've shown elsewhere, this is the very opposite of directing people toward oneself, one's vision or any particular methodology of men. Any of these will only distract those we say we're attempting to help away from what they really need in Jesus.
What are some ways professing believers draw attention to themselves instead of to Jesus?
- They usurp the leading of God the Holy Spirit by choreographing the times the people of God fellowship with one another.
- They appoint themselves "head" or "leader" of a particular church or religious organization thereby competing directly with Jesus as Head of His Ekklesia and every local ekklesia as well.
- They take for themselves "religious titles" and "spiritual positions" within "their own" creations thereby fracturing the unity and equality all believers share. Do some have these positions and titles while others don't? Is that equal?
- They promote "their creation" (church or organization) through advertising (through the entities name or the leaders' name), through products they make and sell (tapes, books and other media) and even versions of the Bible with mens names attached to them.
- Recruit "their sheep" to promote "their vision" for them and God.
- Refuse to properly translate scriptural words which would strip them of the very privileges and authority they exercise over others.
In most cases, all of the above are not the mistakes of ignorant men, but ongoing sin from educated religious professionals who either call themselves your leaders, allow others to call them leaders or present themselves as such.
An Abundance of Distractions
In Colossians 1:28, 29 Paul the apostle makes it clear that His purpose is to preach Christ:
"We proclaim Him, admonishing every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me"
Paul makes two things plain in the verse above. First, that our need is for Jesus and secondly that in Him we can be made complete. To be complete is to be full or without lack. Paul is saying that everything we will ever need is found in the person Jesus Himself. Now look around you. Are those you consider to be leaders in the faith pointing you to Jesus or something or someone else? Only those who either refuse to accept the truth above or fail to believe it will offer you a substitute or something in addition to Jesus as a solution to a particular problem.
2nd principle of exemplary leadership: Recognize leadership as a function, not as an office or position.
In most of our modern day Bibles the word office is found four times in the New Testament. There are two basic definitions among the four verses as I list here.
[Acts 1:20] [1 Timothy 3:1] 1984 in Strongs (episkope) which means a visiting or overseeing. Great Treasures defines it a looking upon, that is for help, relief, deliverance, punishment etc. It is derived from 1980a (episkeptomai) which means to inspect or see.
[Luke 1:9] [Hebrews 7:5] 2405 in Strong's (hierateia) which refers to the priesthood. This word is derived from 2407 (hierateuo) which refers to being a priest and performing priestly duties.
Now after reading these definitions can I ask, "Does a Christian man who meets the scriptural qualifications fill a religious position/office or merely take upon the role/functions above among the local saints? Why would this matter?
Much of our present day misunderstandings come from the manner in which the verses themselves are written. For example in the NASB Acts 1:20 reads:
"For it is written in the book of Psalms, 'LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE, AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT'; and, 'LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE"
and in the KJV…..
"This is a true saying, if any man desires the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work" [1 Timothy 3:1]
Very few people , especially those of us living here in America misunderstand what it means to have an office. For example, having an office at work denotes having more authority than those who don't have one. Those with an office have a title and position that denotes what they do within an organization or business. That title is usually posted upon both the door of the individuals office, upon company letterhead and even on a storefront depending upon that individual's prominence. Their title denotes and demands reverence and may also denote their particular pay scale within the companies or organizations institutional hierarchy. From their office that individual rules over men under their authority, delegates responsibility and decides who, how and what will be accomplished according to their best made plans or intentions. Sound familiar? It should, your church operates in a very similar manner.
Note that Paul the apostle when referring to Judas above in Acts 1:20 is found quoting Psalms 109:8. Once again the KJV uses the word office. Interestinly enough, contrary to everything I just mentioned above, the Hebrew word here is 6486 (pequddah) which also carries the idea of oversight and visitation. It does not and could not include any of the above. Furthermore, the other two verses above which wrongly use the word office in many translations, these would no longer be restricted to a select group of priests who although not ruling over the people, they did have special responsibilities and authority before God. In our day, all believers are priests indwelt by Jesus Himself who claims to have all authority and exercizes His authority through whoever He chooses at any given time. His authority has not been delegated to a select group of individuals who consider themselves leaders, nor is His authority tied to a particular position or office.
"A religious office is another brick that coincides perfectly with institutionalism, religious hierarchy, positional authority, spiritual elites and their best made plans. Unfortunately, this paradigm doesn't exist in God's economy. It is another stronghold of our adversary to be rejected, as are those who refuse to abandon it.
3rd principle of exemplary leadership: Representing Jesus and Him alone
In our day, one can look in any direction and find someone offering a solution to some problem we face in this life. Whether that problem deals with recovering from a divorce, dealing with sickness, raising one's children or dealing with some external conflict, people are everywhere inside and outside of today's churches offering "their solution" to your problem. Who are these people who incessantly offer their solutions to your particular problem? Leaders, that is, self professing leaders.
Every self appointed leader needs a vehicle or means to disseminate what they personally believe. Note these words in italics closely. For every professing Christian will practice certain behaviors and those behaviors are part of that individual's particular beliefs. For example, if one believes that God desires them to attend a church for "fellowship" then they will attend one. If one believes that one must have formal training to become a Christian leader than that person will attend a "Christian" college. If someone believes they must go to church to be a faithful Christian then they will question those who neglect to attend one. Do you see where we're heading here? People's actions prove what they believe.
Neither God nor man cares what any man says he believes. The only thing that matters is whether my life as an individual lines up with what God says I must believe in practice.
We have often noted that Jesus has made clear that His truth in practice is taught and lived through local ekklesias in which He is building. [1 Timothy 3:15] [Matthew 16:18] This is not one vehicle in which Jesus builds but the vehicle through which He builds and for which He is the Head. If this is true, then why are so many professing Christians utilizing all manner of other vehicles to disseminate what they claim is the truth? Where in Scripture is any believer either commanded or allowed to start "their own" church or religious organization? Why would anyone even choose to do so? Wouldn't that equate to having a divided affection between Jesus and our earthly creation?
I want to be a leader
"It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do" [1 Timothy 3:1]
We noted above the misuse and mistranslation of the word office- even as above in my beloved NASB. A more accurate rendering is found here in the YLT:
"Steadfast is the word: If anyone the oversight doth long for, a right work he desireth"
Notice the emphasis being shifted from a supposed office to what is really a good work- the willingness to oversee others. Also note that overseeing is not the same thing as being over others. The first is commendable while the latter is condemned.
Combine this error (the use of the word office) with a refusal to remain within the bounds of what Jesus says He is building and it's easy to see how we got where we are today. The fact is, men do not want to remain within the parameters in which Jesus has set. Within those parameters it would be difficult if not impossible for men to do their own things such as:
- Begin a "ministry" of their own making that they name/title
- Appoint themselves the founder/leader
- Create unscriptural leadership "positions" within one's "own ministry"
- Allow women to exercise authority over men
- Take spiritual positions and religious titles unto themselves
- Devise imaginative ways to "do ministry" that are not scriptural
- Recruit other people and financial resources to promote "what is theirs"
- Skirt the scriptural qualifications for being a qualified overseer
- Divert resources from what Jesus is building
- Set an improper and unscriptural precedent for others to follow
- Deceive the masses to become leaders "like them"
According to those who promote the unscriptural practices above, anyone and everyone can become a leader. This is true provided you follow "their leading" through "their methods" in "their organization." It is absolutely not true through a scripturally built local ekklesia.
In most cases, all of the above are not the mistakes of ignorant men, but ongoing sin from educated religious professionals who either call themselves your leaders, allow others to call them leaders or present themselves as such.
4th principle of exemplary leadership: Proper Desire
As I return to this particular point in writing this study, I return having just carried on a conversation with a newer brother about this very subject matter. I asked him, "How many people having been recently saved, are now bent on doing something for God?" His answer: Every one of them. Exactly, and yet exactly wrong!
Having a desire to serve God is no doubt commendable. No one is going to criticize someone who earnestly desires to serve God in some capacity. That said, does having such a desire permit any given individual the right to serve God in any way they please? Can they just go do whatever they think or believe will be pleasing to God provided they do it in His name? By the look of things that's exactly what people are being taught and acting out these days.
I mentioned earlier that "doing things for God" is tantamount to walking in the flesh and perpetuating dead works. God has not called us to perform for Him but rather to obey Him. I can only obey Him as I understand specifically what He requires and how I am to go about putting into practice what He requires.
I also mentioned earlier that the vehicle (or means) through which all Christian ministry and service should be exercized is through a local ekklesia. Just because thousands of people have rejected this truth does not make it any less true or necessary. If anything you desire to do does not stem from a local ekklesia you must be very careful not to obstruct or circumvent what Jesus wants to build by doing your own thing. We are not talking about simple services such as visiting others, shopping for someone, providing someone transportation or witnessing to others. We're talking about those "big ideas" we all get and want to pursue as new believers. Why is there a difference?
All Christian service is commendable provided it is prompted by the Spirit of God. We do not need to permission to carry out any of the above. But before we take our grand idea and title it (sin), appoint ourselves the leader, (sin), recruit others (sin), raise funds for it (sin) and promote it (sin) we best think twice. For in doing so we will be competing directly with Jesus Himself by taking upon ourselves His responsibilities (all of the above) and creating a substitute entity that very well might be directly competing with the Jesus we claim to be serving. Here's some examples:
|What God has said||What man has done||The Result of men|
I will build my Ekklesia
as the pillar and
support of the truth
1 Timothy 3:15
Start his own church
and title it however
he chooses. It now
becomes the means to
disseminate the truth.
Emphasis placed upon
a physical entity vs. a
Jesus is Head of His
Man is head of his own
Men wrongly equate
God's Ekklesia with
"their" church or
Men start their own
"ministries" so they can
skirt God's leadership
Jesus calls men unto
Himself and to each
Men recruit other men
to what they believe
The entity, leaders,
belief system and
ministry pursuits all
choke Jesus out.
Only Jesus knows
which living stones
fit together- man's
emphasis upon "more"
people negates any
Give bountifully to what
Jesus is building
2 Corinthians 9:6, 7
Men want others to
support what they want
to build for God.
away from His people
in need and our
neighbors as a
witness to them.
Jesus remains the
answer for in Him is
life. Come unto Me
John 5:39, 40
Men promote what they
do for Jesus, not Jesus
Deceive Christians by
success all the while
true gospel of living
Jesus and Him
In our day, many people are "entering the ministry" "as a profession." Neither of these bracketed quotes have anything to do with New Testament Christianity. They are part of the false belief system that for years has established various precedents that compete with Jesus. This false belief system is propped up with "enticements" which are also foreign to the one true faith. Although not limited to these, here are a few reasons individuals "desire a career" "in ministry."
- A desire to be paid a regular salary to serve God.
- A desire to call a church or a group of Christians "theirs"
- A desire to rule over/be the head of other believers.
- A desire to be professionally ordained/recognized.
- A desire to rub hands/hearts with "Christian celebrities"
- A desire to make a name for oneself in Christiandom through writing books, producing tapes/Cd's and speaking engagements.
- A desire to have special religious perks from both the religious institution as well as the world at large.
- A desire to have respect and honor from men.
- A desire to have one's name advertised on church signs, letterhead, bulletins and through other forms of advertising.
- A desire to be the focal point of most ministry events and planning.
These ten desires are reminiscent of a self-serving man, certainly not one of the least of these. Be forewarned: Don't desire to be among them!
Desire is not enough. Man desires many things, most of which are unhealthy for him. This includes the majority of what is being done in the name of Jesus Christ these days. Desire is good, though right desires having been formed from an understanding of biblical truth is far better. That truth is to be learned and lived as individual Christians learn to follow the exemplary leadership of God appointed elders within a local ekklesia. It is here that the necessary preparation to lead takes place and the building blocks of any supplemental ministry are formed. Here is how:
"These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach" [1 Timothy 3:10]
Any desire to minister to a specific demographic by any Christian must be tested and judged, preferably by members of a local ekklesia. A refusal to submit to such a judgment is a likely indicator that the individual is more concerned with their own pursuit than the intentions and desires of Almighty God.
5th principle of exemplary leadership: Meeting the Qualifications
Although the Bible condemns calling any man our leader, nonetheless their are individuals who are called to carry out the responsibilities of leadership functions and that through each local ekklesia Jesus establishes. These individuals, although refusing any formal titles are designated as the elders of a given assembly. I write the word in the plural for that is God's design- a plurality of older men in contrast to a singular individual who resides at the top of some religious organization. The latter cannot be found in the New Testament, nor in any local ekklesia afterwards for over two hundred years.
It is those who have a proper desire to oversee the other saints who must be tested and meet the various scriptural qualifications. Meeting the qualifications "proves" that the particular individual is gifted and trained in a manner which allows them to adequately carry out the responsibilities of being an elder. See [1 Timothy 3:1-15] [Titus 1:5-14]
In God's design for His Ekklesia, God calls several different individuals to be His gifts to His body both universally and locally. We find these individuals (who are the gifts verses are given a gift) in Ephesians 4:11-13:
"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as shepherds and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ"
Generally speaking, apostles and prophets lay the foundations for local ekklesias. They have other responsibilities as well but only they are called to lead in this capacity. Evangelists do evangelize of course, but they predominately lead the other saints in the manner and specifics of how to go about interacting with an unsaved world. This is one manner in which they build up the body. They also travel along with apostles and prophets in establishing a new work. In contrast with the travelling gifts, shepherds and teachers are those whose work of building up relates specifically to a local ekklesia. It is these who are called to carry on the work that the forerunners have established. These are raised up from within a local geographical area and are well known to the saints in that area. The Bible knows nothing of importing "pastors" from other areas unknown to a group of local saints. The elders are almost always grown from within.
6th principle of exemplary leadership: Follow Jesus/Godly Elders and Patiently Wait
"Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe" [1 Timothy 4:12]
In the ideal circumstances, every believer would immediately unite him or herself to the local ekklesia in the area where they presently reside after coming to Christ. Within this framework, they would begin to grow as a believer as they learn from God Himself and others who have gone before them. They would be actively discipled by those appointed by God and the local assembly as elders. Within this framework any desires they might have for additional ministry service would be discussed, judged and eventually implemented within the framework of that assembly alone provided they were scripturally sound and supported by the whole.
In reality, very few scripturally sound local ekklesias are found today despite this remaining God's heart for His people. His remnant knows this well. Therefore, what does one do with these desires God places upon our hearts when we find ourselves alone or without likeminded family?
Follow Jesus/God Elders/Wait
Regardless of what situation we presently find ourselves in, no situation warrants a failure in continuing to follow Jesus. It is highly likely that many of us have for too long followed a man or men more than we ever have Jesus Himself. That trend must change. As many of you already know, Jesus has been and continues to call His own out of man's institutions and back into a deeper reliance upon Him and His one true wineskin. Follow Him and reject everything that fails to conform to what He is building. Resist the temptation to move ahead of God and take matters into your own hands. Don't stop serving others, but be careful your choices don't compete with what God is doing as above.
Most of us don't have close Christian friends who have abandoned all for Christ. Most of us don't know of those we can follow as they follow Christ. Don't despair in that. Look to the few you do know for guidance and counsel where that is needed. I have gleaned much from the few out of the box believers around the globe and their net sites, many of whom I consider my best friends. Oddly, I've never met any of them and only talked with a few here and there. That doesn't curb either my admiration nor respect for them continuing to follow Christ undeterred and unashamed. The real Jesus that is…..
I hate to wait…and my Lord knows. Some counsel I read once:
"When God wants to make an oak it takes a hundred years, when He wants to make a squash it takes six months" I find this an excellent reminder in these tough times when it appears as if God has left me alone in the wilderness. God will make us hard against temptation and tall in influence provided we remain faithful through the process. Now a promise despite our circumstances:
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" [1 Corinthians 15:58]
7th principle of exemplary leadership: An ongoing pursuit: Jesus and Him Crucified
Most of those confessing Christ these days seem to think that provided they conform to the dictates of a particular institution then that is an acceptable standard as a Christian. It's not always purposeful, our old nature feels comfortable provided we're keeping up with what is generally noted by one's leaders as proper practice for a believer. How easily we forget that we have only one standard by which we are to judge ourselves- the very same standard God Himself required of His own beloved Son when it came to adhering to the law- perfection.
Obviously we can't live up to that standard, nonetheless we are called to press on in our devotion to Christ and in a proper understanding in the knowledge of Him. How do we know, understand and experience Jesus in our everyday lives?
"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted loss for the sake of Christ" [Philippians 3:7]
Dear brother or sister, have you really ever considered what Paul was saying here? How much of what we once valued prior to Christ have we been willing to religuish? Everything? How about anything?
"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus my Lord……
Dear brother or sister, have you so encountered Jesus that you value Him over and above what you may have lost?
…for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish
Is this your attitude in relation to what you once valued? And why…
…so that I may gain Christ…and be found in Him…that I may know Him…
Brother and sister, have you traversed this way? Are you praying to this end?
…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
Brethren, have you considered knowing Jesus like this? Can we expect to really know Him without a continual pressing on into Him? Can we be lax or relaxed and think that this will suffice in order that we may attain to the resurrection from the dead?
"Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk , of who I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things" [Philippians 3]