In this post, I plan on giving a summary of the leadership model that is laid out for new covenant believers. First we will look at Jesus and then the letters, specifically Paul’s.
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those that have authority over them are called ‘benefactors’. But it is not so with you, but the one who is greatest among your must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.”
What is Jesus saying?
First of all, Jesus is describing the authority structure that is seen around him. This can be extrapolated backwards to look at the kingdom of Israel as well as fore-ward to today’s kingdoms. Today we have political nations that lord it over us and do so for our own good- not so in the kingdom of God; we have corporations with CEOs and their boards, sports teams with executives, and military – not so with you. Jesus goes on to say that in the kingdom, leadership will rest with those who are like children and slaves. That is those specifically without authority.
Sadly, today’s churches are more like the Gentiles then the example of Jesus. And this Sunday morning, hundreds of congregations around the world will hear sermons on submitting to godly authority.
“But do not be called Rabbi by men; for One is your teacher and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth father; for One is your father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
The first passage we looked at dealt directly with the worldly systems and forms of hierarchical leadership. This passage deals with religious offices and positions. It is my belief that Jesus is not talking about us calling others by these and other titles (pope, priest, pastor, apostle, prophet) but that these are not to be positions or offices that exist within the kingdom of God. Someone may pastor but he is not a Pastor. Again, this seems to have been totally ignored in our religious system right from the beginning.
Jesus modeled these ideas while he walked among us. He never held authority over another person, his authority was over sickness, demons and even the natural elements. Jesus did not ruled over his follower, the sinners and drunkards he hung out with, not even over the pharisees.
A good summary of how Jesus lead and how the leaders in the kingdom should lead, lets look at an encuragement to these leaders by one of Jesus’s followers years after:
“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be reveled, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”
1 Peter 5:1-3
Let me paint a picture.
A small church of 75 that had 6 strong elders, one of whom started the church and was the Pastor. The congregation had a mixture of older believers and those new to the faith. One day the pastor get word of some importance that drags him away from the church for an undefined period of time. After 6 months away from his congregation, he gets word of arguments and heresies taking root. What can you envision this mans response to be if it were not possible that he could return?
The only way I see this man interacting with the situation would be to send a letter off to the elders giving them instruction on how to implement correction on the members who are in the wrong.
Paul and all the other New Testament letter writers do it another way. There are two things that we need to note in the letters of Paul:
- He wrote the letters not to any one or any group but to the whole body in a given place.For instance, in Corinthians there arose many issues that need correction. And some of these issues were not small things. If Paul were to handle it the only way I can see it being handled today, he would write to the elders and express his concerns. He would deal with those who had authority and rule over the rest of the body. The fact that he wrote to the body as a whole suggests to me that he took Jesus at his word.
- Paul did not write in an authoritative manner. He did not say “this is the way it is, this is what you should do” Instead, he wrote in such a manner as to persuade them into action. In the New Testament, leaders do not lead through coercion, manipulation or authority; they led through example – example of character and of living out the truth.
But what about Elders and Deacons?
Deacons: the deacons of the New Testament were literally waiters or servants – they are to be the bartenders of the church. The responsibility of the deacons was to serve the needs of the body.
Elders: literally older men/ women. Elders were appointed. They were not appointed to rule over the flock but as a recognition of their role of example – example of character and of doctrine. The appointment of elders were especially important for new churches as these new bodies needed the example and the best person or persons to do the appointing were those that planted the church and had the experience and maturity to recognize character and right doctrine in others.
Any authority that anyone has is is rooted in spiritual maturity and is not an authority over others but a recognized authority of character and doctrine.