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Biblical Leadership

In my previous post I wrote on the amazing lack of leadership we see in the New Testament Church.  I pointed out that the church at Corinth was full of problems yet Paul dealt with the entire church rather than writing to a single pastor (“lead pastor” in our day) or even a group or board.  He wrote  to the entire church (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Out of twenty-seven New Testament books, only Philippians opens with a reference to leaders and that only after Paul greets the saints first (Philippians 1:1).  Not one book in the New Testament is addressed to one leader other than Timothy and Titus who were not singular pastors but apostles.

My point in all this is not to deny that there are leaders in the Church.  Ephesians 4:11-16 is clear that there are gifted saints given to the Church to help her.  1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 are clear about elders and deacons in the Church.  In Acts 20:17 Paul called the leaders of the church at Ephesus to himself.  Hebrews 13:7, 17 mention leaders.  1 Peter 5:1-4 mentions elders.  It is obvious that leaders are there in the Church but they simply don’t play the prominent role that they do in the modern institutional church.  In the modern church, the pastors are the leaders and they play the most prominent roles.  Who’s name is on the marquee?  It is not the janitor.  It is not the prayer leaders.  It is the senior pastor.  The senior pastor casts the vision, gets the most money from the church, sets up the budgets, visits the sick, prays, preaches, etc.

By the way, in passing, the pastorate also has the single highest burnout rate.  Consider the following stats:

13% of active pastors are divorced.
23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
70% don’t have any close friends.
75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
90% work more than 50 hours a week.
94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.

That is pretty telling.  And why do pastors feel this way?  Why the struggles?  Some would argue because Satan opposes them.  I would concur but I would also argue that they are doing something God has not given them to do in His Word.  Again, the modern pastorate is missing from the New Testament.

Biblical leadership is very different.  Consider the Lord Jesus who set the example of leadership.  Jesus said that He came to serve (Mark 10:45) and Jesus told His own disciples not to lord it over one another as the Gentiles leaders do (Matthew 20:20-28).  Jesus’ example was service (John 13:1-17).  Peter the Apostle tells us that elders are to be examples to the flock under the control of the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:3).  Notice also that Peter tells the elders to shepherd the flock among you (1 Peter 5:2) and not under them.  The elders themselves were part of the sheep.  This was not a clergy-laity division.

I believe that we have lost the understanding that the Holy Spirit is in control of His Church.  We tend to think that we need a pastor to lead us.  We have a pastor in Jesus (John 10:14) and we can hear His voice (John 10:27).  Jesus leads His Church by His Word that everyone can hear Him speak from (John 8:47).  God is still speaking to His people (Hebrews 12:25).  He speaks to all of us by His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  While I do agree that we need godly teachers to teach us His Word (Ephesians 4:11; James 3:1), all of God’s saints have equal right to come to the Word of God and feed off it.  We don’t need to wait for the Bible teacher for the Spirit to teach us.  Further, the elders are our examples (Hebrews 13:7) and not as lords over us.

How radically different the church would look if elders led the saints by their examples and the entire church worked together for the kingdom of God!  Imagine 1 Corinthians 14:26 being worked out in your local church.  Could it be done or would the professional pastors halt it?  The New Testament has 52 “one another” passages.  Can your church obey those?  Or is your church’s traditions (professional pastors for example) robbing the word of God of its power (Mark 7:1-13)?

My prayer is that God will raise up godly leaders who serve among us.  The Lord is going great things through His Church all over the world and I rejoice in that!  I rejoice that souls are being saved and the Lord is opening eyes to the truth that He can faithfully lead His bride.  I pray that many godly pastors will search the Scriptures and will transition from the Catholic model of leadership to the biblical model of leadership.

For more information on biblical leadership, I recommend the website: New Testament Reformation Foundation.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/18/2014 at 10:50 AM

The Levites: Picture of the NT Saints (Part Two)

In my previous post on the Levites, I noted the promises that God gave to them about Him being their lot, Him being their portion.  God Himself said that the Levites were to be consecrated unto Him (Numbers 3:11-13).  The Lord told the children of Israel that the Levites were to be His priests to approach Him on their behalf (Numbers 3:5-10).

Deuteronomy 18:1-2 was clear about the Levites and the Lord being their portion:

“The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.

When the children of Israel finally entered into the promise land, the Levites did not inherit the land as God would again be their portion.  Joshua 13:14 reads,

To the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance. The offerings by fire to the Lord God of Israel are their inheritance, as he said to him.

How does this picture the NT saint?

First, we are chosen in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-14).  Those who are in Christ Jesus by faith are His elect (1 Timothy 4:10).

Secondly, in Christ we are all priests before God.  1 Peter 2:9 reads,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Notice that the disciple of Jesus is a royal priesthood.  All disciples are priests unto God in Christ Jesus (Revelation 1:6).  Through Christ we are all equally able to come into God’s presence because of the work of Christ, our faithful High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  As Hebrews 13:15 reminds us:

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Thirdly, there no longer remains a special group of people who do the priestly duties.  The Roman Catholic Church incorrectly carried over both the Levitical priesthood and combined it with paganism.  The Protestant Reformers did not go further enough to not just preach salvation through faith in Christ Jesus alone but they failed to dethrone men from the pope’s chair.  In exchange for one pope, the Protestants, in some ways, now have thousands.  The modern clergy-laity system does not find its roots in the New Testament but in the Old Testament with the Levites and with the Roman Catholics.

We need to see that our faithful high priest is Jesus and He is also our faithful pastor (John 10:11).  While the Church does have leaders, Jesus is the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) and He is our shepherd and guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).  Leaders are not there to rule over the people of God but to serve alongside them (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 5:1-4).  There is not one NT example of one man leading one church.  There are always elders leading (Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5) but not one elder.  Furthermore, there is never named one pastor.  Ironically, what is amazing in the NT letters is the lack of leadership as compared to the modern clergy-laity driven church model.  Only Philippians (1:1) mentions leaders at the start of the letter.  Only Philippians.

I am not advocating no leadership.  Jesus said we would have leaders but His example was one of servant leaders and not worldly leaders (Matthew 20:20-28; John 13:1-20).  We are to imitate our leaders (Hebrews 13:7) and their example is Jesus and not a worldly CEO.  We are to submit to such leaders (Hebrews 13:17 and notice the emphasis on plurality).

My point here is that clergy do not have special access to God.  Clergy may know more about the Bible only because of their training but this doesn’t have to be the case nor should be the rule.  All of us are equal at the cross (Galatians 3:26-29).  We have different gifts and roles but we all are able to come boldly before the Lord because of Christ.  Christ has fulfilled the Law and the old types is now complete in Him (Hebrews 10:1-4).  We have a new covenant in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 8:13).  This new covenant enables all of God’s people to come before Him now through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.  We don’t need a priest or a special place to worship God (nor even a special day as opposed to Sabbath keepers).  We can now worship, adore, praise, proclaim, and exalt the one true God at any time and any place.  He will never leave us nor forsake us for He is our portion and our delight.

What’s The Problem With House Churches?

For the life of me I have tried over the years to understand how people can oppose house churches.  I know some reject house churches because their tradition is that they must meet in a building that they call a “church” in order to have “worship services” that honor the Lord.  Others oppose house churches because they are too close for comfort.  You can hide in a traditional church but not in a house church (Hebrews 3:13-14).

The major complaint I hear from people in the Internet is that house churches lack “biblical” leadership which typically means that the house churches are 1) not part of a denomination or 2) lack one pastor who has been professionally trained for the ministry.  #2 is by far the most common answer I hear.  House churches, as one critique stated, “Want to play church instead of being the true church.”  He said this because house churches lack a clear clergy-laity system where one man leads the flock of God.

My response to this is simple.

First, the Bible knows nothing of one pastor leading a church.  In the New Testament, the Church is led first by Jesus Himself through His Spirit (Acts 13:1-3) and then by elders (Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1-5).  The elders must fit the description as found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.  We find only elders leading the Church and not one professional elder or pastor.  The word “pastor” is found only in Ephesians 4:11 in most English Bibles although the ESV correctly translates the Greek word as “shepherds.”  Jesus, of course, is the “chief shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4).  Jesus faithfully leads the Church (John 10:11) as the good shepherd or pastor.  We find not one pastor in the New Testament.  In fact, all titles given to people in the New Testament Church are what they do and not who they are.  Paul is an Apostle because that is what he does.  We find no Pastor James or Bishop Smith or Elder Joe.

Secondly, house churches do have leadership!  In fact, every biblical house church will have leaders.  Leaders are mentioned in the New Testament Church but their role is not that as found in many modern churches where pastors do all the work, all the teaching, all the preaching, all the evangelizing, all the praying, all the visiting, etc.  In fact, only Paul’s letter to the Philippians even begins by addressing the leaders and the Church (Philippians 1:1).  You would think that if pastors and leaders in the Church are so vital to God’s program then we should expect to find much about them and the Epistles should be addressed first and foremost to the leaders as the true servants of God.

I personally feel that many leaders in the Church are fearful that if they give ownership of the Church to the Holy Spirit then they would lose control.  So be it.  Let us lose control for the glory of God!  God is more than able to build His Church and He is (Acts 2:47; Colossians 2:19).  God alone saves for His glory and God alone leads the Church for His glory (Ephesians 3:20-21).  My earnest prayer to God is that He would reform His Church so that we would all see that we are all called to be priests unto God (1 Peter 2:4-5; Revelation 1:5-6).  The Reformers taught the priesthood of the saints and I pray that we would soon embrace the biblical teaching that we are all called to serve God with all that is in us.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/09/2012 at 7:05 PM

House Churches and Leadership

One of the most common arguments I hear from traditional (or institutional) churches is that house churches are opposed to leadership.  One blogger put it this way, “House churches want to play church instead of being the church.”  Traditional churches pride themselves on their clergy-laity division, that they have leaders in place whereas it is assumed that house churches oppose any thought of a leader telling them what to do.

Well this is partly true.  First of all we hold that Jesus is the head of His Church.  As did the New Testament.  As do all evangelical churches.  Colossians 1:18 says, “He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything” (NASB).  Ephesians 1:22 echoes the same thought.  Jesus is the head of His Church.  Not a pastor.  Not a pope.  Not a priest.  Not any flesh but only Jesus is Lord over His Church.  Therefore it is true that we in the house church movement oppose someone telling disciples what to do or think since Jesus is the Lord of His Church.  We need to heed the words of Christ as found in the Scriptures above the creeds and confessions of human beings.  We believe that leaders in the church are not to lord it over others faith but be examples of true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5).

The ironic thing about reading the New Testament is that you find not a lot of information about leaders in the church.  Only one letter in the New Testament even addresses the leaders from the outset and that is Philippians (1:1).  All of the New Testament letters are addressed to the saints when it would be assumed by modern traditional churches that leaders would first be addressed since the professional clergy set the tone for the local church.  The clergy set the agenda, the vision, the purpose, etc. for the local church.  This is not the case with the New Testament.

Leadership is addressed in the New Testament.  Jesus spoke about leadership in Matthew 20:20-28 but He contrasts the worldly leadership that the Jews had seen with true servant leadership that He called for and demonstrated with His life and death (Mark 10:45).  Leadership is addressed in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.  Ephesians 4:11 speaks of gifted people who God gives the Church but for a reason: to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry (vv. 12-16) and not to pay someone else to do the work of the ministry.  Leaders are mentioned in Hebrews 13:7, 17 and 1 Peter 5:1-4.  Elders are mentioned in James 5:14.  You’ll notice how important elders were to the New Testament Church.  What you will not find is the idea of one professional pastor serving over a church with a deacon board or a group of elders helping the pastor lead the church.  The word pastor appears only in our English Bibles in Ephesians 4:11 and the ESV correctly translates it “shepherds.”  Jesus is the true shepherd of the flock of God (John 10:1-16; 1 Peter 2:25; Hebrews 13:20).

So what does leadership look like in a house church then?  First of all, we have elders.  A biblical house church should have a plurality of elders (Titus 1:5) who lead the house church.  Their purpose is not to be over the people of God but among the people of God (1 Peter 5:2).  The elders are to fit the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.  The elders are not professional Christians although they could receive some money as a gift from time to time (1 Timothy 5:17-18).  No where does the New Testament call elders to abandon the “secular” for the “ministry.”  Elders are to lead by example and not as professionals who dominate the local church life (Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Secondly, leadership in the local house church is often consensus based.  In Acts 13:1-3 we see the Holy Spirit leading the church in Antioch and He does so through the people of God.  Notice that the people of God were seeking the Lord for Himself (v. 2) and it was during this time that the Spirit called Barnabas and Saul for a specific work (in this case to be apostles or sent ones; see verse 4).  The church didn’t quickly say okay but again they fasted and prayed to come to a consensus about this call.

In Acts 15 we find another example of consensus.  Here the church meets to debate the relationship between the Law of Moses and the grace of Christ.  The church comes to a consensus after much debate (Acts 15:22).

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is another example.  Here Paul is addressing an issue among the Corinthians about head coverings.  His point throughout these verses is that the church needs to come to consensus over this issue as he states in verse 16.

What this looks like on a practical level is that house churches often move slowly.  Unlike the traditional churches who vote on issues all the time and are building buildings and doing this or that, house churches are slow to act and instead seek God for His wisdom, to study Scripture, and to come to a consensus over issues.  Some issues are quickly solved while others must be handled with much prayer and wisdom from the Lord.  Keep this in mind, however, that Jesus is the Lord of His Church and He is faithful to His Church.  We need only to wait on Him and obey all that He has taught us (Matthew 28:20).  No matter the issue, Jesus should be the main focus and His glory is to our aim.

Lastly, the priesthood of the believers is vital to the local house church.  Each person can study the Scriptures and can speak for God (1 Peter 4:10-11).  All of us are called by God to glorify His name and to proclaim Him.  All of us can hear from God in His Word (John 8:47).  All of us have the Spirit of God living within us (Romans 8:9) and all of us can be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) and He is able to speak through us.  We should be open to all disciples of Jesus sharing from the Scriptures or giving a teaching since we are all priests unto the Lord (1 Peter 2:4-11) and all of us can give input into the kingdom of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26).  Elders are not to be the only ones teaching the Bible.  Elders certainly are to keep the house church sound doctrinally (Titus 1:9; 2:1) but elders are not to dominate the house church meetings.

Leadership in the house church is important and should not be rejected.  God raises up elders to glorify His name through their passion and examples.  Elders are not to dominate the people of God nor are elders to be professional Christians but they are to serve as servant leaders of God’s saints.  We need godly leadership in the local church but what we don’t need is more of the CEO-type leadership that we find in the traditional churches.  Only Jesus is truly head of His Church.  Let us exalt Him for His leaders while He Himself is our true leader.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/28/2012 at 12:07 AM

Take The WEAK Out Of Meek

Here is a link to a great article on servant leadership that we so need in the Church and the call for true character. Holiness is so important in biblical leadership and too often we choose leaders in the modern Church based on the world’s CEO ethics and not Jesus’ example of servanthood (John 13:1-5; Philippians 2:5-11). I truly believe that the modern clergy/laity system so often robs God’s of His glory and His honour because the focus is on the abilities and talents of men rather than the power of the Holy Spirit at work among God’s people (1 Peter 4:10).

My prayer to God is that He will begin to stir up in our hearts a desire to return to the biblical models of leadership and turn away from the worldly influences. For a season in my life I got into reading book after book and listening to lecture after lecture on leadership but what troubled me and turned me off from the leadership teachings found in the American Church today is that it was full of worldly management skills, worldly leaders, and was full of quotes, stats, and speeches from the world but contained little from the Word of God. The concept of leadership in the Bible is completely different than that of the world (Matthew 20:20-28). The entire concept of the incarnation of Jesus makes little sense to the world and does not reflect the earthly authority of a king but it is God’s way (1 Corinthians 1:18-19). Jesus, the King of kings an Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15-16; Revelation 17:14), is a servant leader as we should be to one another (1 Peter 5:5-7).

Dr. Mark Rutland on Meekness in Leadership

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/05/2008 at 8:39 AM

Take The WEAK Out Of Meek

Here is a link to a great article on servant leadership that we so need in the Church and the call for true character. Holiness is so important in biblical leadership and too often we choose leaders in the modern Church based on the world’s CEO ethics and not Jesus’ example of servanthood (John 13:1-5; Philippians 2:5-11). I truly believe that the modern clergy/laity system so often robs God’s of His glory and His honour because the focus is on the abilities and talents of men rather than the power of the Holy Spirit at work among God’s people (1 Peter 4:10).

My prayer to God is that He will begin to stir up in our hearts a desire to return to the biblical models of leadership and turn away from the worldly influences. For a season in my life I got into reading book after book and listening to lecture after lecture on leadership but what troubled me and turned me off from the leadership teachings found in the American Church today is that it was full of worldly management skills, worldly leaders, and was full of quotes, stats, and speeches from the world but contained little from the Word of God. The concept of leadership in the Bible is completely different than that of the world (Matthew 20:20-28). The entire concept of the incarnation of Jesus makes little sense to the world and does not reflect the earthly authority of a king but it is God’s way (1 Corinthians 1:18-19). Jesus, the King of kings an Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15-16; Revelation 17:14), is a servant leader as we should be to one another (1 Peter 5:5-7).

Dr. Mark Rutland on Meekness in Leadership

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/05/2008 at 8:39 AM

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