The Mythology Of Church Leadership



Myth – “an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.”

John Maxwell (who told me that he is my friend) says that “everything rises and falls on leadership”, and you know what? He is absolutely right. Everything from our schools to our homes, from our businesses to our sports teams need to be led – The thing is what should church leadership really look like. Does the Bible give any clues, should we be like a corporation or is that the very opposite of what the Jesus had in mind?

I believe in leadership. There, I have said it; in fact I believe in Christian leadership, I just have some issues with how it has become defined within the churches.

Popes, Pastors and CEO’s

Many of us are programmed to see leadership as a difficult climb to the top that brings with it authority, reward and respect. We are trained to think this way in our churches; leaders are brought to the front and ‘honoured’, they often have ‘special’ seating, their words carry authority because of their proximity to the senior person and we are expected to obey. To my mind this model of leadership might be okay for a company or corporation, but not for the church of Jesus Christ.

Not as the heathen

As with so many of us, Jesus’ group of followers had power struggles; they wanted the best places in His kingdom, they wanted to be seen to be better than the others and would argue about “who was the greatest”. Jesus’ response to this was to bring a child among them as an example of heavenly leadership; on another occasion Jesus stripped to His underwear and washed their feet saying that the “greatest among you is the servant of all”. The picture Jesus was trying to convey is that heavenly leadership is bottom up and not top down. Leaders within the Kingdom of Heaven are servants, not caesars. True leaders don’t look to be served but to serve, they don’t dictate – they persuade, if they have to pull rank then they are probably not a leader.

Plato VS Jesus

In our Western/ Greek mindset we tend to see leadership as a position above others, but this is not the mindset of the New Testament. Jesus made it very clear that we are not to try and rule or control each other and yet our churches overflow with teaching on submission, covering and obedience – The majority of which is not found in Scripture. God has not called us to submit to leaders, but we are encouraged to listen to those whom we highly esteem; leaders are not called to rule in our churches, there is only One who rules. The pastor, bishop or pope are no more Christ’s representatives than anyone else who has received Jesus as their one true Lord.

Institutionalised believers

The reason that what I am saying is so hard for some to swallow is at least in part down to the fact that we see the church as an institution. This is so ground into our thinking that we struggle to see God move in any other way; we think that God will talk to the man at the top and he will pass what God says onto us. The problem here is that we are in the wrong covenant; what’s more, when Moses did this God wasn’t altogether happy, He wanted a nation of priests, not a tribe and He still wants the same today. When we talk about building a church on a ministry gift, or developing a congregation through top down leadership we are falling short of the heart of Jesus. We are family, we are a movement, we are the embodiment of Jesus in the world, not an institution or a company.

A free people

We are free under the headship of the Lord Jesus, He builds His Church, He directs His people, We know His voice and He leads us by His Spirit. This family of His is scary, imperfect and we only know some of what He has for us, but, and it is a really big but, we are His. You do not belong to a church, you are part of the Church; you are not under the rule of a priest or pastor, you under the rule of The High Priest and Good Shepherd Jesus Christ.

“Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”

Go well my friends 😉

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2 thoughts on “The Mythology Of Church Leadership

  • January 24, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Enjoyed that blog – thanks – I see the gloves are coming off, 🙂

    I was always struck by Jesus’ betrayal in that it required a betrayer. In the modern church it would have been easy to spot the leader – the one up front or in a suit etc. Yet Jesus was indistinguishable from his friends, from His disciple, so it took an insider to identify him.

  • January 24, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    “We are family, we are a movement, we are the embodiment of Jesus in the world, not an institution or a company.” Yes! Thanks Mark.

    Sadly, this twisted view of leadership that you talk about here is so engrained in every part of our lives – including our families. Parents can easily use fear & intimidation to try & control their children.

    I like Adj’s comment about Jesus being indistinguishable from his friends – scripture tells us that there was nothing about him that stood out (naturally).

    He did indeed come to serve; as he was sent into the world, so are we. Oh God, continue this good work you have begun in us!


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