Thursday, July 16, 2009


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.

Jesus sternly warned his disciples not to "lord it over" one another (Mark 10:42-45) as the Gentile rulers did. 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).

Peter and the other Apostles obeyed Jesus and appealed to the Church as fellow laborers in Christ and fellow elders in service to the Body saying:

"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 agreed 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

This is also what Paul is warning the Church about when he rebukes them for identifying themselves as followers of Appollos, or Peter, or even of himself. Instead he 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.

Paul warned the church "for three years" and "never stopped warning" them "night and day with tears" about this dangerous tendency in the Body to put anyone other than Christ at the head of the Body.

If I were to ask you, "Who is the leader in your church?" What would your answer be? Is your leader "Pastor Bob?" or is your leader Jesus Christ?

I've noticed a troubling tendency in today's Christian Church to gather and identify ourselves based on whose church we attend. Just name any famous church and you can name the leader of that church. You know their names. People will even say, "I go to [insert celebrity Christian pastor’s] church!" rather than to say, "I go to Second Baptist".

Forgetting for a moment that "going to Church" is, in itself, a misunderstanding of the New Testament idea of Church (ecclessia)- We cannot hope to fully embrace the priesthood of the believer without first letting go of the man-made, pastor-driven form of Christianity that holds us captive.

Who is your leader? Who is the head of your Church? Are we, as a Body and a Bride, fully submitted to Christ as our Lord and Husband? (See Ephesians 5:22).

Are we guilty of "lording it over" one another in a top-down hierarchy of Church? Jesus said that we are all brothers in His Body. He commands us not to call anyone "Father" or "Teacher" because there is just One Father and One Teacher and He is the One to whom the Church belongs.

Let us take seriously these words of Jesus. Let Paul's tearful appeal to us soften our hearts. Let Peter's humble example shame us all for elevating one man above the rest of the Body.

As Jesus said to His disciples: "It shall not be so among you!" (Matthew 20:25-26)

How I wish that it were not so among us all.



Troy Hamby said...

I agree but if we look down through church history, leaders have always risen to the surface and have become "known"...a few of the NT books are even named after them! I truly believe that Augustine, Francis, Luther and others were humble men who were part of the community but their leadership ability caused them to be the "1st among equals" for lack of a better term. I'm sure they were reluctant and tried to divert the attention but probably eventually saw that they were in a prime position to actually make disciples of Christ.

It is people's natural tendency to follow a true's up to the leader to have enough character and integrity to point those seekers to Christ instead of themselves. Unfortuantely, we have too much of the latter in the American church...

Keith Giles said...


Uh...those books are "named after" those men because we did that. Those weren't best selling books on the Jerusalem Times best-seller list. They were letters so they didn't have any "titles" at all.

The letters of Peter are called that because he wrote them, not because he's the "star" of the book or a celebrated author.

I think you already know that, though, right?

Also, I know that people's "natural tendency" is "to follow a true leader"...but our "true leader" is Jesus, not [insert mega-church pastor's name here].

Jesus is passionate and Paul compels us with tears to do all that is within our power to look to Christ as our personal leader, and as the Head of His Church.

Whenever we avert our eyes and begin to worship the man in front of us because of his gift of leadership or talent for sermonizing we are adapting the pattern of this world, not the pattern of the Kingdom.

banjarphile said...

I Corinthians 11:1: Be imitators (followers) of me, just as I also am of Christ.

Keith Giles said...

Yes, the New Testament seems to be more centered on "followership" than on "leadership".

The reason we're so caught up with "leadership" today is that we've supplanted God's design of a Church where He is the leader and substituted our own man-made version which is run like a business.

If you're running a business you had better have great leaders or you're dead.

If you're a Body you only need the organs to all work together in harmony and as long as the Head remains connected you'll have something strong and healthy and beautiful.

banjarphile said...

Also see what Paul says in:
I Cor 4:16
Phil 3:17
Phil 4:9
I Thess 1:6
II Thess 3:9
if there are followers and imitators, it would seem a logical conclusion that there is a leader to follow; at least someone in front pointing the way, leaving an example.
An elder in the Lord is an example simply because he has already 'been there, done that' and helps the younger avoid the same pitfalls.
Even in a family, there is usually a big bro or sister to emulate.
Just my 2 cents, FWIW.

Keith Giles said...

"Follow me as I follow Christ" is about following Jesus. It's not about Paul's leadership, it's about Paul's followership and his desire that others also follow Jesus.

Granted, there IS leadership in the New Testament. My point is that it doesn't resemble the CEO, top-down version of leadership we have come to know today.

Mainly it was different because the church then and the church now are two different animals:

One was a family of equals where Christ was the leader of every disciple and the Spirit was the center of every meeting.

The other, our church today, is a business venture where entreprenuers attempt to gather more people to their franchise than the other competitors down the street and the CEO, professional clergy is the central source of all of the gifts necessary to build up the Church.

In the New Testament model every believer was empowered to baptize new believers, plant churches, lead and share in communion and perform all the "priestly" duties that today only trained and licensed professionals are allowed to perform.

Molong on Being Church said...

I agree what all Keith says here.

We're not saying that the church in NT is a 'leaderless' church, it is just 'leadershipless.' That is leading for awhile or lead on the side then push them up to follow Jesus. The question of leadership is not how many people are behind you but how many people you're behind.

If there is a scriptural definition of a leader then it is the one who says, "Follow Me." And that is Jesus, not Paul or any other apostle. It is unnoticed to some in Peter's opening letter when he said, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ" and "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ." Peter is an apostle not to me but OF Jesus Christ. Peter a 'servant' not to me but OF Jesus Christ. Simply means, Peter is not a leader but a servant and an apostle OF Jesus Christ. If he is a servant of Jesus then who am I? Does this make us all equal?

My point? No leadership in the NT. If there is, then not much -only to the level of fathering your children in the Lord. Eph.6:1. And this is not called leadership at all. When a person is still a child then he may need some guidance but when he becomes a son then he is led by the spirit of God. "For as many as a re led by His spirit are called sons of God." Unlike in modern churches today, the leadership is endless!

The 5-fold gifts are not leaders, but 'gifts' and if they are gifts then it was meant to be used. I believe more that these 5-fold gifts are more on fathers in the Lord. 1 Cor. 4:14-15, 1 Tim 1:2. Their relationships to the church where not 'pastor-member' but 'parents in the Lord' and 'children in the Lord.'

And when it comes down to leadership: I pause a question, "What is a leader?" Some would say he's a 'servant-leader.' Well, you're confusing me. Who is he really, what do you mean by 'servant-leader?' Is he a 50% servant and a 50% leader? The NT never uses the word 'leader' and if there is then you know where its pointing -Jesus. You may quote 'He who wants to be great among you must be a servant of all,' does this talks about being a leader is being a servant? No it does not. It clearly talks about being 'great' and being great here does not literally means a leader, but lets say even if, then it does not give you the right to sit in a best chair.

Molong on Being Church said...

Yes, true that people normally look for leaders to follow. This is a part of our fallen human nature. That instead of (the first man) following God's instruction he follows his own direction. Thus, thinking to himself that he can do it without God and now he's in trouble and still looking for human leaders to lead him! People may follow you(praise God they see your light) and there's nothing you can do about that eh? However, there are two things that you can do to them: 1) Draw them to yourself 2) Draw them to Christ. Your choice...

About people following people, that is only a person's prerogative, do not assume that 'people following people' is a norm in NT for it is not.

Over-lead and Under-lead

One of the reasons that we can only lead for awhile, and on the side and then push them up to follow His leading because there is the Holy Spirit in the new believers life. And their spirit is not immature than my Holy Spirit, but we have the same Holy Spirit. Other important reasons are: the believer is instructed to 'walk in the spirit' and 'be led by the spirit.' When someone follows Christ then he is taking a walk in his journey with Christ and is led by His spirit! How dare a human leader replaces that job? Is anyone better than the Holy Spirit?

Remember that when you try doing some follow ups to the person not only that you are forcing Him to follow Christ but also you are already over-leading the person! Many pastors are over-leading their church for 20 years! It's time to get out pastors. Until you are willing to let go of your grip to your church you are not ready to trust the Holy Spirit fully. Or say, one still didn't understand the work of the Holy Spirit in a person's lives.

We have our work to do (making disciples) and the Holy Spirit has His own work to do. If we try to His work then He will not do His work. If we try to do His work, then its obvious that we didn't do our work. If we try to do other peoples work, what do you call that person? Disturbance!