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More Thoughts on Leadership

In the post before last, I outlined some quick thoughts on how to rectify the current leadership crisis, and it is a crisis, in the Church.  I see this crisis in both denominational and nondenominational churches.  The problem is that leaders tend to focus on how to maintain and expand their position once they are leaders.  This takes their focus off the people and the mission and puts the focus squarely on the leader.  When that happens, they adopt the mindset that the people owe them respect, honor and cooperation.  Of course, this malady isn't limited to the church, for business, government and the military have their share of poor leaders as well.

This teaching is perpetuated by several popular teachings.  The first is that the leader is the anointed of God or God's man.  This develops a mystique around the leader that leads people to believe that the leader is more spiritual than most of the people.  I heard an African pastor say once, "This person came to me to talk to me about worship. Can you imagine?  They came to talk to me, to me, about worship!"  He was incredulous that anyone "under" him in the church could have anything to say about something spiritual that he, the pastor, would need to hear.

Everyone is anointed when we function in our purpose.  The pastor may be an anointed speaker, the elder may be anointed to administrate, and the worship leader may be anointed to lead people into God's presence.  Each one has a gift and when he or she functions in that gift, they are anointed.  The pastor submits to other gifts that are more anointed in a particular area.  If we think that the pastor is more anointed than the worship leader, for example, just because he is the pastor is faulty theology and the kind of thinking that has helped create the current leadership crisis. 

The second is the concept of covering.  The teaching goes that somehow a man can protect you from spiritual disaster if you submit your life to him (or her).  Can someone tell me how a relationship with one man can supposedly protect hundreds, even thousands, from spiritual danger and harm.  When someone says, "I am under so-and-so's covering," what does that mean?  Is the word covering in the Bible?  Can a man or a relationship with a man protect anyone from cancer or provide for their family?  Of course not!  I believe in accountability, but how can 1,000 be accountable to one man?  If we are serious about covering, we need to see it more as a chance to serve those under us, not lord it over those under us.

The third is the institution of something called armourbearers.  Those are men and women who are assigned or who volunteer to assist the leader.  I am all for armourbearers, but what about those who aren't in top leadership?  Don't they need assistants, too?  When the top person is the only one who has an armourbearer, it communicates the wrong thing, in my opinion.  Therefore, I never use an armourbearer.  When people ask me why, I tell them, "I don't have any armour."  I drive myself, carry my own Bible and briefcase, and pretty much take care of my own needs when I speak or work. 

There are three verses that I try to use to help guide my imperfect leadership, which I exercise without the benefit of a church structure or official title.  Those verses are found in 1 Peter 5:2-4:

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. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

These verses have all we need to solve the leadership crisis.  If leaders and churches would adopt these verse as their leadership philosophy and enforce them, we would be on a way to the revival that so many talk and pray about.  What are the basic principles in those verses?

1.  Leaders must serve the people and not expect the people to serve them or their vision.

2.  Leaders must be willing to serve.  If they aren't, then they will begin to expect that the people will serve them.

3.  The money issue must be addressed.  If a leader wants to travel and earn honoraria, that's fine.  They cannot, however, do it while they are pastoring a local church.  How can a man (or woman) be on the road speaking and say they are the pastor of a church of 100 or 10,000?  It's not possible.  Therefore, that leader must decide between local service and translocal ministry.  The two are mutually exclusive.

4.  The leader cannot be put in a position where the tendency to lord it over the people takes hold.  The leader must influence others to follow by setting a good example, not through directives, orders and control.  Power is not bad; it's what the leader does with the power that is the problem.  If the leader works to protect his power and amass more, then there is a problem.  If the leader works to give his power away, to empower others, then we have a good leader by biblical standards.

I would love to start a dialogue around the issues I have raised and would love to hear from you, especially if you disagree with me.  This is your chance to balance my somewhat contrarian views.  Please feel free to use this forum to present your thoughts concerning the issues I have raised.  I could be wrong and, if I am, you have the duty to correct me and educate my readers.  You can write your comments on the site where this entry is posted.  Please let us hear from you soon.


Bill Kinnon


Let them who have ears to hear...

Excellent series. Needs to become a book. You have the years of experience, the wisdom and the writing ability.

Probably the key passages for me in this are the 1 Samuel 8 verses you've referred to earlier and Matthew 20:25-28. We demand a King - and when we get one, we jockey for position to be close to him. In spite of all of who Jesus was, what he did and who he is today we still annoint men (and women) as royalty. We use Old Testament language to describe a New Testament church. And end up with the same nonsense that the people of Israel experienced with the Kings they demanded. Where are the servant leaders. (Too many of these leaders are convinced that servant leadership means that we serve them.)

There is a fierce responsibility in the Body of Christ to reject the leadership models we have so willingly embraced. We, the church, desperately need to call to account the leaders who abuse their position for self-aggrandisement, set themselves above correction and tell us "we are not to touch the Lord's anointed."

I actually think we need to avoid language like "anointed". It reinforces the Old Testament understanding of Leadership - as demonstrated to much ill effect in Kings and Chronicles (not to mention the Prophets).

And don't get me started on "armorbearers." There are no New Testament armorbearers - our weapons of warfare are not carnal. This language is actually rather ridiculous in light of the exegetical hoops these King-like leaders force us to jump through to understand their warped interpretations of scripture.

Not that I hold any strong opinions on any of this... :-}


This past year, I experienced first-hand more abuse of authority in the local church than I care to recount. The lessons learned were hard and painful, but I'm grateful. Likewise, I've seen defiant "church members" (for lack of a better term) disrespectfully renounce the local church and any human authority to their own, and others', demise and destruction.

That being said, God is a God of order. Creation, the biblical family, the biblical local church, and Christ's relationship with the Church all reflect this. Sin, not the system, is the problem. An abusive leader and a rebellious "follower" are equally out-of-line. Local church government exists to protect and equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Role definition promotes order, safety and growth. It does NOT define importance or anointing. Any governmental system inherently requires leaders and followers, authority and submission.

Hebrews 13:17 states:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

It's not wrong to emulate or obey leaders. I learned to be a good parent by following my parents: they were and are really great parents. I've learned fantastic, godly lessons and have seen tremendous character in some church leaders. Their example has motivated me and showed me how to be more like Christ. I've learned just as much who Christ is NOT and who I do NOT want to be from selfish ones.

Idolatry at any level is sin. The first and second commandments set the standard. It seems with these as our plumb line (1 Peter 5:2-4 fits here), order is set both at the individual and corporate level. Certainly, as we serve one another accordingly, I agree that we will see revival.

Kelley Skiles


I hear what you are saying totally. As one who found herself in an organization that was quickly becoming a present day form of the shepherding movement, I can yes yes and amen to the leader must serve, not lord it over, and not say I am a pastor when in fact they are a insecure control freak on the road preaching their form of how to save the world. It is a sad state we find ourselves in these days - a generation that is needing fathers, and thus an arena where the enemy can use the insecurities of leaders to create a facade of fathering in an attempt to control.

I do want to point out, however, that my generation, the Gen-x, Gen-y types have no real example of honor, and thus honor must be taught. We grew up post viet nam where everyone seemed to hate and disbeleive everyone in authority of any kind. I was taught to say "yes ma'am and yes sir" when responding to those in authority, but also taught they should be consistently questioned. What this current generation needs so desparately to learn is that it is not just about honoring a man - it is tri-partate if you will - if I am choosing daily to honor God, then I will honor those he has placed as authority in the church AND I will honor myself as a child of God whom Jesus loves and died for. There must be balance - remove one leg and the whole thing topples over.

Paul was clear that authority is given by God and should be respected or honored. He was also clear that those in leadership should see themselves as he did, the chief of all sinners needing the same salvation, sanctification and transformation as any person that they may lead.

I say these things because we need to be careful to not throw out honoring those who labor amongst us because the church has got it wrong for so many years. If honor is due, it will not be because of title, but because of character - let us remember that God grants favor based on character, the world grants favor based on position - keep the two clear and we'll have no issue with honor being misused for control.

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