Biblical Leadership – Then and Now

Have you seen it before? 

 

Leaders who impose their own will on those that they think are “under them?  Whose wedding you may attend; what you may or may not wear whenever you come together with God’s family; whose and how much advice you can get; who you may or may not befriend.  The impositions are endless. These are examples of human leaders (men just like you) who are trying to control you and impose their opinions on you.

Some believe that submission to these men is the godly thing to do, but Jesus seemed to say otherwise.  In Matthew 15  “… their teachings are but rules taught by men.”  Then He said in verse 14, “Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”  

You may be thinking, “This does not affect me. I have been able to believe what I want.  I just keep it to myself.”  Perhaps; or perhaps you have deluded yourself (as most of us have at one time or another).

But Christ never intended His people to be treated this way.  He wants them to move beyond immaturity and grow up into mature men and women of God who rest confident in the leadership of the Holy Spirit more than upon men or services or listening to one hour monologues concerning their never-ending, incessant droning to sit under their teaching, to submit to their headship and authority, to listen to and follow their counsel.

When poor, deceived Christians follow the pathways of men, they become blinded to their own condition and they fall prey to the danger of actually embracing a worldly mind-set that cleverly creeps in through the guise of spirituality.

Does it bother you that most of what we associate with “church” has little to do with the New Testament?

No thought or study whatsoever is ever given to Scripture on these matters.

How can we claim to take the New Testament seriously as our “rule of faith and practice,” and yet turn a deaf ear to clear, undeniable patterns of servanthood and ministry which marked the early apostolic churches?

If our current practice contradicts the New Testament, why do we keep affirming it as our infallible guide?  Why don’t we just admit that we do not really care what the New Testament says, and that we prefer our inherited way of doing things?  What are YOU prepared to do about this?

In many churches, we can see the Biblical injunction, “we ought to obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29) actually used to encourage the very thing that the verse forbids!  The principle is twisted and tossed, and twisted again and again until the poor church members’ conscience is bound to the authority of men instead of to Christ Himself, and as said earlier, the more sincere the poor church member is that believes this Roman Catholic indoctrination, the more they will allow the so-called “God-ordained elder” to rule their conscience.

Men by nature seek and enjoy positions of power and leadership.  Jesus’ early disciples had this same attitude.

The mother of James and John came to Jesus seeking power for her two sons.  She asked that “these my two sons may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy Kingdom” (Matt. 20:21).  The ten, when they heard this request “were moved to indignation” (Matt. 20:24).  The ten were no different than the two; they also wanted the “position of leadership.”

Jesus’ view of power was made clear in Matthew:

“But Jesus called them to him, and said, You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant: even as the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many”  (Matt. 20:25-27).

We are living in a day where the Kingdom of God and kingdoms of churches are opposites.

In the kingdoms of churches, “great ones exercise authority over them.”  This is true regardless of the kind of men the “great ones” are…they have so-called “positions of office.”  (A “position” NEVER ONCE found in Scripture!)

The Kingdom of God is the opposite of what we see in many local churches.  Jesus’ statement about the great ones“who exercise authority over them is: “NOT SO SHALL IT BE AMONG YOU.”

There are no positions of authority. There is no man whose word has power over another.  No one has the right in God’s kingdom to “lord it over them” (exercise authority).

Jesus has spoken and said “NOT SO!”

Jesus’ emphasis was not on LEADERSHIP or POWER, it was on SERVICE.  Jesus’ teaching was “whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister (servant).”  “Minister” is not another word for “Preacher” but rather the idea is that of a domestic servant who ministers (serves) to the household by the performance of menial tasks like cooking and cleaning.

Jesus further taught “whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant” (slave).  The servant or slave of the first century had no rights.  They were property and they lived or died based on the whims of their masters. Jesus thus advised those who desire to be great or chief in God’s Kingdom to serve like a domestic servant or slave.

Jesus illustrated the lesson of service in his own life. He “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).  Jesus, to whom God gave “all authority,” led only by his Godly example.  Jesus did the most menial of tasks in washing his disciples’ feet.  He ate with publicans and sinners.  He loved people and finally “gave his life a ransom for many!” 

Did Jesus “Lord it over” the disciples?

Did Jesus “exercise authority” over his disciples?  NEVER!  Why?  He “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”

Jesus led men by his example, not by occupying a position of authority over others.

While Jesus, the Son of God, led only by example, many preachers, teachers and elders believe God has given them“OFFICES”  to occupy or “POSITIONS” of leadership and power.  Many  preachers state it this way:  “I have authority derived from Christ and when I exercise this oversight, I am not acting as a mere man; I am acting as a man who stands in an office, an office appointed by Christ and enclothed with the authority of Christ…”

Sounds just like what my Roman Catholic priest used to tell me!  The only difference was that the priest wasn’t dressed up in a business suit!

Whenever a “church leader” claims authority or exercises power merely on official grounds, he is essentially a pope and claims the prerogatives of papacy as fully as does he of Rome.  He may be a smaller one; his sphere of action may be more limited, but the principle is the same.  All the evils of the papacy arise out of the claim of the Pope and his council that they are “specially chosen” and are “clothed with authority” by virtue of official position.

The so-called “eldership” is ascribing and assuming to themselves “authority” and “rulership” that even the Apostles would not dream of doing!

Jesus refused to grant the request of the mother of James and John for positions of power.  Modern preachers place themselves ahead of the apostles and believe God has granted to them what Jesus said he COULD NOT grant.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had the same attitude.  They held positions of power and authority.  They made the rules and forced everyone else to follow them.  Neither their attitude nor their rules impressed Jesus.  Jesus violated these “rules” every chance he had.   Neither Jesus nor his disciples kept these rules.  They deliberately violated them to the amazement of the Pharisees and ultimately to the death of Jesus Himself.

The Pharisees wished to justify themselves and degrade others including the Son of God.  Jesus told the Pharisees:“You are they that justify yourselves in the sight of men; but God knows your hearts: for that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Men love money, power, authority and to be feared.  These things have no value to the true disciple of the simple Galilean.  The Pharisees “scoffed” at the Son of God because His teaching directly contradicted their precious traditions.

Church leaders are no different in our own time.  They still seek power and authority and justify their use of it.  Perhaps the most twisted verse in all of the New Testament by those who seek power is Hebrews 13:17: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account.” 

Many modern leaders assert that “THEM is “HIM“!  They say that when the writer said “obey THEM;” that means you must obey HIM  – today’s person in a position of leadership; i.e., preacher, teacher, elder, etc.

(Read the articles, “OBEY THEM”  and “Do Elders Rule?” to see how this verse is twisted.)

Peter taught that leadership in the Kingdom of God is by “making yourselves examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:3).

Jesus illustrated this with a life of service and ministry.  Jesus lived the perfect example and was therefore the perfect leader.  Jesus’ only exercise of power was the life that he lived.  Jesus was a doer out in the highways and byways – with the poor and rich – with prostitutes and sinners – telling the Good News!  This is true leadership.

Whenever a man or set of men assume to exercise authority in a church by virtue of some official appointment, or to assert they have rights and authority as officers above others and assume to exert their rights, they should be resisted even to the disruption of the body.

They are lording it over God’s heritage, and are exalting their authority at the expense of the authority of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

It is a shameful tragedy that men will exert such authoritarian rule over the saints of God and brazenly assert that such is in harmony, even the requirement of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a blessing to this generation that there are some brethren who have stood against this insidious evil.  We owe these brethren a debt of gratitude for their gallant opposition to this outrageous claim of papal power by those who “lord it over” the church.

Which one is a Biblical servant:  # 1  or  # 2
Thanks to Ken Cascio
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