Leading confidently without being overpowering -part I
Updated: May 25, 2021
Christian leadership is rooted in preaching Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Through this, people are born again as they turn in repentance and faith. The angels in heaven join us in rejoicing for another sinner saved, through faith in the blood of Christ. Alleluia!
Of course, there’s a little more to Christian leadership that this. Every generation needs to understand afresh what it means for Jesus to be Lord and Saviour, and all that it means to be united with him through faith.
There’s a reason Paul teaches the Ephesians that pastor/teachers have been given 'to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.' (Ephesians 4v12-13). As he explains: 'Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.'
I forget who it was who taught me (or more likely reminded me so clearly) that the main role of biblical overseers is to 'protect the sheep from false teaching'. False teaching leads people away from the true Lord Jesus. It’s the wide gate that leads to eternal destruction. An essential role of the Christian leader is therefore ‘sound teaching’. I imagine many readers will agree.
I fear, however, that we have all too often failed to grasp the implications of Ephesians 4. It is that Christian leaders are to be body builders: builders of the body of Christ. In this, they are to be overseers, not overlords. It’s all about everyone else, not ourselves.
Too often the view of Christian leaders is one of monarchical pastorship. The pastor tells the church what to do, and what to believe, but is somehow separate (often above) the church, rather than seeing their role as serving and encouraging the church to become what they are not yet. I know of independent churches described as ‘controlled’ (where the pastor has almost absolute authority). In the Anglo-Catholic tradition, the minister is seen as a priest with an almost high priestly role: just because they preside at the Lord’s Supper does not mean they should decide which the flowers go.
Others may think they do not suffer either extreme. But here’s a question for every minister: when was the last time you deliberately encouraged the church to take a decision without you? And what kind of decision was it? When was the last time you can honestly say you learnt from your church and so changed your mind on something? I’m not talking about core doctrinal issues, but in the everyday stuff of local church ministry. When was the last time you actively submitted to the wisdom of your wardens or co-elders or PCC? And more to the point, perhaps, would they even dare to disagree with you?
Here’s a thought I’d love to mull over and chat with any reader, concerning Christian leadership. The world’s view of leadership says: 'the person at the top leads and directs and runs the show'. At its worst, it will cull the weakest. Jack Welch in General Electric proudly proclaimed a cull of the bottom 10% of his managers each year. It’s like an orchestra where the Christian leader is the conductor, and all the musicians are excellent.
Might Christian leadership not be more like a jazz festival? Some groups may be more in rhythm than others, but if you take a step back, there is beautiful music being played because every single person is involved and using their gifts, such as they are able.
Christian leadership that is confident without being overbearing will encourage diversity and the involvement of everyone, from the ‘bottom’ 10% (as if such a thing could exist in the church!) to those who think differently on non-core doctrinal issues. And for those who disagree on the essentials? Check out 2 Timothy 2:20-26, but that’s another column!