Tuesday, November 16, 2010

THE DISCIPLES ON LEADERSHIP AND HIERARCHY

The disciples of Jesus were very concerned with leadership. Early on they spent a great deal of their time discussing issues of hierarchy with one another. For example:

"An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest." (Luke 9:46)

Even at the Lord's Supper, when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him, and that he would suffer in order to establish a new covenant between God and man, the disciples took a break from discussing which of them might betray Jesus in this way in order to discuss the very important topic of leadership:

"A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest." (Luke 22:24)

Earlier on in Jesus' ministry the mother of James and John came to him to engage in a dialog about leadership, saying:

"Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." (Matthew 20:21)

Of course, James and John themselves were also quite eager to move up in the hierarchy of the Kingdom and so they also came to Jesus to talk about leadership issues when they said:

"Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." (Mark 10:37)

Even when they traveled from town to town, the disciples loved to talk about which of them was the greatest of all.

"They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, [Jesus] asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest." (Mark 9:33-34)

Yes, the disciples were extremely fixated on the topic of leadership and hierarchy. But Jesus wasn't. In fact, in every single one of these cases, Jesus took the time to stress to the Disciples that, in the Kingdom of God, leadership didn't have anything to do with being top dog. In fact, if they wanted to be great in the Kingdom of God, they would have to get used to washing feet, being everyone's servant and acting like simple children.

In the Kingdom of God, the only boss is Jesus. He is still the head of His Church and no one else. All the rest of us are brothers and sisters in His Family.

Jesus reminds all of us that the least among us is the greatest of all.(Luke 9:48)
He models a servant style of leadership for all of us to follow (John 13:4-17)
He boldly declares that, unless we can become humble like little children, we will never enter the Kingdom of God.(Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17; Matthew 18:3-4)

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:5-8)

Jesus pointed to both Jewish (Religious) and Roman (Political) hierarchies and made a point to contrast those systems with his own model. He sternly warned his disciples not to “lord it over” one another as the Gentile rulers did.(Mark 10:42-45) He also commanded them not to follow the example of the Jewish leaders who loved the praise of men and built their own kingdoms to glorify themselves. (Matt 23:8-12).

Eventually, the disciples got it. They abandoned their pursuits of hierarchy and they embraced the loving, servant leadership posture that Jesus so beautifully modelled for them.

We see this when Peter appealed to the Church as a fellow laborer in Christ and referred to himself as a "fellow elder" rather than as an Apostle:

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” – 1 Peter 5:1-4

Paul echoed this also, saying:

Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.” – 2 Cor.1:24

People love leaders. We love leadership. We flock to those with the greatest talent and ability. But this is exactly what Paul warns the Church about when he rebukes them for identifying themselves as followers of Appollos, or Peter, or even of himself. (see 1 Corinthians 1:11-13)

Instead, Paul warns all of them not to become disciples of any other man, or leader, but to fully submit to Christ alone as Lord and Savior and Teacher.

When Paul was preparing to return to Jerusalem he wrote a letter of farewell to many of the churches he had helped to plant and nourish. As he encouraged them he took the opportunity to remind them of something that had been burning in his heart for three years. It was something that, in his own words, he “never stopped warning each of (them), night and day with tears.” – (Acts 20:25-31)

What do you suppose it was that concerned Paul so much? What could bring him to tears like this? What could compel him to constantly remind and warn those first Christians “night and day”?

Was it false doctrine in the church? Was it the coming persecution? No, it was something far more devasting to the Body. The rise of teachers and leaders who would draw disciples after themselves rather than pointing them directly to Christ.

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” – Acts 20:25-31

What troubled Paul most of all was the knowledge that, after he was gone, men would rise up “to draw away disciples after themselves”. Paul was broken-hearted to think of the Body submitting to the authority of men rather than to the authority of Christ.

Think about this. Paul is mainly concerned that men will rise up from within the Body itself and, in his absence, set themselves up as leaders and draw disciples to themselves.

Why would this concern Paul so much? Why would it cause him such anxiety and emotional turmoil? Perhaps because Jesus made the issue of leadership within His Body very clear: It was designed to be a family, an organism and a community, not a hierarchy.

In the Church, our only Head and Leader is Jesus.

"Christ is the head of the body, the church; Christ is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,that in everything Christ might be preeminent." (Colossians 1:18)

"And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:22-23)

-kg

3 comments:

captainquaker said...

I really enjoyed this, and I couldn't agree more. Thanks for posting it.

Parousia said...

What's the Kingdom??? Maybe that question should be Who is the Kingdom???

Simply put, the Kingdom is Jesus Christ doing through you and me what He did when He walked the earth in human form. Why do you think we're called His body?

Anonymous said...

Keith, you're clear about your point. Just your use of wordings is not clear enough. It confuses me to call 'serving' - 'servant-leadership?' I believe Jesus doesn't 'add' servant-hood' in leadership, instead He eradicates, or 'terminated' 'leadership' and replace it with servant-hood. Jesus is the only Leader in His Church, ALL has the privilege to 'serve one another' as a family. Not 'lead one another, 'not so among you.'

We lead souls 'outside' His Kingdom, Jesus leads His Kingdom, His people through His spirit, it's called 'spirit-led.'

Definitions defines relationships. If we are called 'leaders' then that makes our other brethren our subjects, or servants. If we call ourselves 'servant-leaders' that who is he, 'servant?' or a 'leader?' Or maybe a 50% servant and a 50% leader?

I am free to discuss more on this. Hey, nice article though. Keep writing mate.'