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What Do We Need Church Leaders For?

Church Leaders

Believe me, I’m not being snarky or condescending when I ask this question.  But, if you are a church leader, why do we need you? If you are not a church leader, why do you think we need them?  Anyone can answer these questions.  Your thoughts? 

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    1. Alan Knox January 15, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

      Interesting questions… I want to reply, but I want to see what direction the conversation goes first. :)

      -Alan

      • Miguel January 16, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

        This should be good! :)

    2. Geoffrey Harris January 15, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

      Acts 6:2,3 suggests leaders were chosen to serve.

      • Miguel January 17, 2013 at 8:28 am #

        Geoffrey,

        So then you would say that we need leaders to be served?

    3. Katie Mather January 15, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

      For the most part, leaders in the “church” are scripturally pretty useless when they do instead of equip. And scripturally speaking, they are not really leaders at all. Ephesians 4:12 best describes the purpose of a leader, to equip God’s people for works of service. Again, to equip others for service. Not to do all the service themselves and let others watch, but to empower others for service.

      About 20 years ago Tim and I had to take a look at what we “do” and call “ministry.” We realized that what much of what we did as pastors would be defined as spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse is defined as denying a person their spiritual empowerment. Many who are “leaders” are actually spiritual abusers. They do not empower, rather, they suck the life out of God’s people and create a weak and immature Body on pastor life support. How many times have you heard someone say, “I left that church because I was not being fed…” People are not trained to feed themselves let alone trained to feed others.

      How dysfunctional and abusive would it be for me to say to my 4 thirty something old children, “Now don’t live on your own. I have everything you need here with me. I will feed you what you need. Because out there you might eat something that is not good for you. That is just wrong on so many levels. But people actually believe their “leadership” when they are told that they need to stay in the same church for ever. That would be like only eating carrots. Now carrots may be good at first but if that is all you eat and you never learn to go find or grow something else, then your body is going to be unhealthy. The Body is unhealthy.

      Give a man a fish or teach a man to fish. Jesus said follow me and I will make you fishers of men, not follow me and watch me fish.

      • Miguel January 17, 2013 at 8:31 am #

        Katie,

        It’s interesting that you say the “best” description of a leader comes from Ephesians 4:11,12,13

        So, are you in agreement with those who call these “leadership gifts?”

        Also, what, in your opinion are some other leadership abuses?

    4. David Woods January 15, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

      Personally, I would have much less problem with church leaders and western-style churches if they operated more like Universities than Masonic fraternities.

      I can understand building buildings and paying staff (voluntarily, not through coercion or false biblical principles). People need “pastors” to marry their daughters, and bury their dead, and visit their relatives in jail, and pray with them when there’s nowhere else to go. The desperate need a buiding with a steeple on it to walk into when they are at the end of their rope. People have need of these things, and sometimes, they need them during the workday, so paying a “pastor” to fulfill these needs only makes sense. Otherwise, they won’t be available when needed.

      I can also see an individual starting in the back row (showing up late, and leaving early), moving to the middle, growing in Christ along the way, supporting the church financially just because they are using their services, eventually feeling confident enough to move to the front in order to encourage, exhort, and set an example for the newbies in the back row. From there they may move to the sound board, the secretarial, or (*Gasp*) the pastorship. Or they may just move on elsewhere, or whatever the Lord leads them to do. As long as they grow in the Lord along the way, with the purpose of becoming equal with or surpassing the pastor (and everyone else), and as long as the pastor is willing to submit HIMSELF to an authority to make sure he keeps himself humble, a university, flow-through style local church can be a real asset to the body of Christ.

      Ok Miguel, pick your jaw up off the floor–yes, I really did say that. I would love to find a church like that to support. I’m not saying I’d go every week, but I’d probably try to bring people as often as I could, and be there for them.

      The problem is that most pastors I’ve seen are so worried about their salary and position that their main point is to keep the people happy (especially the big givers), and to keep them there forever and grow the church to the point that it’s run more like a business trying to keep customers. The main thing I see missing in “the clergy” is humility. The humility required to run a church is enormous, as is the fear of driving off the “big tithers” by saying what needs to be said.

      Western style churches, should they exist at all, should be recycling their sermons every few years, because their congregation should have different faces in it constantly. In the pew, AND on the stage (to an extent). They should be like Universities that teach, grow, and send each individual into what God called them to be, not an ever-growing fraternity catering to the whims of the richest among them.

      Who needs 99% of Western-style church leaders? I may have at one time, and I’m not knocking what good they did do, but any more, not me.

    5. Marshall January 15, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      if you have been blessed to watch open-range sheep with a shepherd, you may notice how one or more will lead out when the shepherd is ready for the group to adjust from their present position or posture. Leading may not always be the same individuals, and some sheep are more inclined to anticipate the Shepherd’s way. However, neither the Shepherd nor the sheep directly depend upon those who would be leading.
      Do we need leaders? Intrinsically, yes, we need some leading because that’s the way a group or community or “body” moves. My right foot, as example, tends to lead out — but also my left is able. My hands are quick to remind here that we might even begin with a forward flip. {grin}
      leading is good, encouraging, functional, but not highly significant compared to the Shepherd’s presence and oversight. When you’re leading, and another “sheep” comes up beside you, remember that you are both running the race together in this competition for the prize of the high calling. Remember Who we’re following, that you may not pick up a following of your own. {grin}

    6. Eli January 15, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

      yes we actually need Everyone to lead in their various capacities. what we do not need is for certain people to be leading in the same areas week after week. function/situation vs office/permanent.
      That said I think there will always be a place for highly institutionized churches with well defined leadership structures. This ‘works’ for some people who otherwise would not be engage christianity. The issue is over representation of these forms of church and how leaders+followers claim this should be normative for all. Add to that we don’t just pay pastors to have a fulltime teaching or preaching role, we also pay them to basically hear god for us and allow us to vicariously live our spiritual lives through them.
      To be fair i’ve encountered non institutional churches that have pretty static leadership as well.
      So the problems are both systemic and personality driven.
      I’ve known some great church leaders, unfortunately no matter how wonderful they are, even releasing and empowering, ultimately they are given more power than is rightfully theirs so it ends up abusive and controlling… even if at the time the followers do not realize christ has been limited.
      In actual fact I’m convinced a successful church leader does more damage than one who is out’ed as a failure… generally speaking. Success can be very deceptive.

    7. chosenrebel January 16, 2013 at 12:07 am #

      Ask people to start their thinking from the Scripture out (whatever their position).

    8. Laurie Norris January 16, 2013 at 10:05 am #

      It’s difficult to wash your own feet.

      • Marshall January 16, 2013 at 10:47 am #

        “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
        [John 13:14]
        the first one or three doing this will be leading the others simply by being first.

    9. Jeanne S. January 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      This may be a silly question, but I am dealing with some folks who ascribe to the importance
      of the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephes. 4. We disagree with the prominence of the apostle
      and prophet. I see their need in equipping the church, but why do we assume their functions
      are leaders, and especially as ones in authority?

    10. Marshall January 16, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Jeanne, the assumption is largely drawn from English translation nuances in place for decades, and from their consequential impact upon commentaries, seminary professors, reform & revival movements. When Paul uses the imperative form, as example, a translation team frequently leaned toward “command” language using words and phrases suggesting tiered authority. In effect, Paul is often depicted in his letters as “lording over” the ekklesias/churches, and is even granted an apostolic allowance to do so — something that Paul of Tarsus would have rejected.
      apostles and prophets, like every member in Christ, each have & speak with the authority of Christ. There is no intermediate authority level or function given by Christ among/to the early church.
      One effective tool in addressing the cluster of errors related is to simply refer an interlinear, rather than leaning solely upon our favourite/popular English translations of the Bible. Yet, in truth, if a man/woman is not being led by the Holy Spirit to wisdom, they may not even comprehend how skewed their own doctrine has become by means of 1800 years of institutional-religious manipulation & incompetence.

    11. Jailer January 16, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

      The biblical answer is yes. The church needs leaders who carry out the roles God assigned to them–faithfully, humbly, selflessly. God has appointed leaders throughout history. Moses, for example, was appointed to lead God’s people out of slavery (“But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you”, Ex 32:34). Afterwards the mantle was passed to Joshua, then a series of judges and kings. Some were unfaithful. Some were downright evil. But the responsibility was theirs nonetheless, and it came from the King of Kings.

      In the NT we are encouraged to remember and imitate our spiritual leaders. (Heb 13:7) Leaders themselves are instructed to lead “with zeal”. (Rom 12:8) Pastoring, oversight, teaching, discipleship, even evangelism … all these are forms of leadership. Leadership is a God-ordained role, but one which is easily corrupted, and for which the costs of that corruption can be high indeed! Therefore, I’m inclined to end with Christ’s words: “But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” (Luke 22:26)

      What we need is not less leadership, but more focused, faithful, servant leadership.

    12. Jordan January 16, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      Romans 12:4 – 8 “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

      As long as God provides the Church with those gifted in leadership, the Church needs leaders.

      However: Christ is the head of the Church. Jesus should be the leader.

      • David Woods January 17, 2013 at 7:27 am #

        Jordan,

        This is a very good verse addressing the relationships between Christian brothers and sisters and how they should treat each other. However, some of us see this as pertaining to day-to-day life, and not just the weekly assembly.

        It’s easy to see how this can be applied to the assembly by those with a common western-style church worldview (Not that YOU have one, but most Christians I know do), but to me, this verse does not even address the common assembly or leaders of that assembly, but just tells us how to “do life together”. (For my thoughts on the assembly, see comment above)

        With that in mind, I ask you this: What did you mean by posting this in reference to this question? That “church as we know it” should be changed to meet this model? That “church as we know it” meets this model if done right? Or maybe something else? I’m interested to hear your thoughts on how this verse applies to the common assembly and it’s leadership.

    13. Jailer January 17, 2013 at 8:38 am #

      David,

      I have been on quite a journey with respect to the “common western-style” church. Early on I was very much a part of it, as that was where I began my Christian journey. There have been other times in my life in which I was very much antagonized against its failings, as I held a very idealized view of what it should be. I have come to rest (for now) in a different place.

      Is the western-style church in need of reformation? Certainly! The question is of what sort? I have begun to conclude that the problems with the church are not so much organizational but (surprise surprise) spiritual.

      Why do churches get caught up in organizing committees and events and performance art? Have they forgotten their first love because they are overorganized, or are they overorganized because they have forgotten their first love? I have come to believe the latter to be the case, which is why I am more interested in reforming the western-style church (which often takes great patience) than in abandoning it.

      So I find myself back in the bosom of the “Western-style church”, where I have found believers who need to be led: that is, taught, encouraged, counseled, corrected, rebuked, discipled, and sent out. The western-style church, broadly defined, is by no means a healthy institution. However, it is very much a part of His body. I, for one, shall stand with her.

      More on on this subject here:
      http://www.philippianjailer.com/2009/05/lonely-defense-of-indefensible.html

      • Marshall January 17, 2013 at 9:10 am #

        Jailer, your discovery rings true, that “the problems with the church are not so much organizational but (surprise surprise) spiritual.” We may even say that organizational problems might not be so much making an appearance, if not for a spiritual default?
        Our prayer you continue to examine all things further, as God is able to reveal more in how the spiritual is failing for organized church. But if you cling to an institution rather than holding firmly to the Head (that is, Christ), why should He open your eyes further?
        I do not imagine that religious institutions can come to take up the “leading” that Jesus and His followers do & say. Being a leader as He is will remain obscure to religious organizations — at best, they are enabled to talk about it conceptually. Almost as soon as anyone begins to lead “Jesus style”, a wall goes into construction and (eventually) that disciple is put away from them even as was his/her Teacher.
        [John 15]

        • Jailer January 17, 2013 at 9:28 am #

          Marshall, I think that depends on many things. Not every leader within the church is a revolutionary, and I will venture to say that is also part of God’s holy design. There are many who labor tirelessly for Christ within the church, observing a long and patient obedience.

          Many in the “organized church” tend to be judgmental of those who blaze new trails outside of it for the sake of the gospel. However, the reverse is also true. We should be careful of how harshly we judge those of either persuasion. The visible church … indeed, even the “Western-style church”, has many godly people who love and follow Christ passionately. We ought not to be ashamed to say so, even as we seek reform.

      • David Woods January 17, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

        Jailer,

        I agree to the need for the church, as I stated in my original comment (closer to the top of the page). My stated lack of need for church leaders was actually referring to the ones I actually have a chance of dealing with. Basically, there is no church around here within driving distance worth becoming a part of, and not enough like-minded people to form one. I do hope this is a temporary situation though. Temporary has been about 6 years so far, but hey, whatcha gonna do besides pray and trust God? To me, abandoning an organization is more right than fighting other Christians over how to be a Christian–which is exactly what I’d be doing in any church within driving distance of here. (Not to imply that’s what you are doing, but it’s what I’d be doing)
        I’d much rather fight for Unity with all my Christian bro’s & Sis’s than fight doctrine with them.

        I definitely agree that the organizational problems within the church are but a symptom of a spiritual condition, but sadly, at the moment, it is an extremely debilitating symptom.

    14. Marshall January 17, 2013 at 10:58 am #

      Jailer, also Jesus of Nazareth appears to be “judgmental” of many operating within the institutional system. However, we can know by faith and context that the thrust behind “you vipers! …whitewashed tombs! …children of your father the Adversary/Devil!” highlights condemnation afflicting them via the system-institution leading those people as a group.
      After 2000 years, it remains a folly (and possibly a bit irrational) to regard appeals, warnings or caveat as “judgmental”.
      Having counted 3 decades labor with “Christian” religious institutions (though in vain), through denominations & non-denominations, it was not so much that, “Many in the ‘organized church’ tend to be judgmental of those who blaze new trails…” Possibly, there would be a few parishioners or pastors so provoked? Not so often the majority?
      All true believers press forward in “long and patient obedience”, in leading, in tireless labors, while such present (as did Christ Himself) contrary to the system (in our honest consideration), and frequently kindle a fear-defense response (including a wall being built up) from system-loyal & system-dependent, as if following Christ in full were communicable and of a deadly virus. His disciples leading simply with Christ as Head, from which may be inferred that “our church” is not.
      Just as in the first century, religious systems are providing a significant number of disciples who come away from the spiritual machinery having acquired revelation in what Christ in not. I am not complaining against the system; it is the will & wisdom of God; the principle agonist to crucifying the Lamb along with many of His martyrs following up to this day. Successions & variants of “organized” apostasy, hypocrisy, counterfeit, foolishness, blasphemy, all ultimately serve to advance by way of blunt contrast the unmatched testimony of Christ!

    15. David Woods January 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

      Marshall,
      You know I’ve backed you on a lot of Miguel’s posts, and I agreed with you a lot of other times when I didn’t bother posting it as well, but I gotta go with Jailer on this one. The Unity of the faith has got to be seen as more important than defending our version of doctrinal “truth”. Not at the cost of The Word by any means, but definitely at the cost of our differing interpretations of it. Us “outsiders” fighting the “insiders” about how Christianity should be done is ultimately fruitless and worthless, but the same cannot be said of fighting FOR UNITY with all those who truly love the Lord.

    16. Marshall January 17, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

      David, our unity is a gift from God. In before-times, I would “fight for it”; that is, until He opened my eyes to see the unity in Christ we know is not something to be wrested or won by men. Ephesians 4:3 does not truly imply that our unity depends upon you or me. “Endeavoring to be keeping/cherishing the Oneness of the Spirit in the together-bond of peace.” When I visit an ekklesia, immediately realizing unity among the members of Christ’s body that does not depend upon our wish or effort, I am reminded of the faithfulness & power of our God to establish all we could not accomplish by any human means.
      In making an appeal here, there would be no defense of someone’s fave doctrine.
      Are we throwing all in with Christ, rather than getting behind certain men?
      There are many who “love the Lord” and may do so all their way along into the Lake of Fire because someone or something prevented them from being known by Christ; prevented them from being in Him. That agent preventing is, for millions today, institutional faith. Right now it may appear as if I’m “leading” with this word, though in truth I am but a late comer and merely an echo for what saints have been already heralding & confirming.

      • David Woods January 17, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

        Marshall,

        You’re right, it’s a gift. I don’t see it as something we have to get, but rather something we have that’s worth fighting to keep.

        • David Woods January 17, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

          Or should I say, humbling ourselves to keep. That’s actually closer to the truth.

          • Marshall January 18, 2013 at 8:33 am #

            yes, though humility is only exemplified by silence when & where the Spirit of the Lord says so. Thank you for being willing to “fight” though the battle be already won by Christ.

    17. Dan B. January 22, 2013 at 2:46 am #

      A “leader” brought out the Hebrews 13 hammer demanding that others submit to him, which to him means not disagreeing with his interpretation of Scripture. I got to thinking, the leader in Heb. 13 is a hegemonai, one who is out in front. This guy and most pastors aren’t in front being an example, They only demand submission because they have the title. Hebrews 13 submission I believe is an act of courtesy or kindness to someone giving it their all, not to someone lording it over others.

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