Leading by the book?

Is the model of leadership practised in most of our churches really a biblical one?

How can we move towards an understanding and practice of leadership that is less ‘one-man-band’ or about maintaining the status quo but instead more closely reflects the New Testament?

Those are the questions I have been asked to tackle in a seminar at New Horizon on Wednesday 20th July. At 10pm (As if the questions weren’t daunting enough!)

What do you think?

What should leadership that is shaped by the gospel look like?

11 thoughts on “Leading by the book?

  1. Pingback: Leading by the book? « the soapbox

  2. Is modern church leadership Biblical? I’d say somewhat. We have a lot of embedded traditions; some are good and wholesome, others are just traditions.

    Remember that New Testament churches had their fair share of trouble, a lot of that trouble was with leadership, that’s why there is a whole New Testament full of letters to them.

    The ideal NT church, the kind of one Paul writes letters to help them become is purely Christ centred. Preaching Christ crucified is absolutely critical, everything else is secondary.

    One of the big traps we (the modern church) have fallen into is to promote a happy clappy, but foundation-less gospel, “believe and you’ll be happier, more fulfilled.” While that may be true, it’s the wrong reasoning. Become convicted of your sin, repent, and believe. That’s how it must be. (wayofthemaster.com)

    Leaders must keep this in mind at all times. Any decision that is made to do with the church must be Christ centred. We must take decisions on principles, not personalities.

    We must also be careful not to compromise our core belief principles, or be tempted to treat the scriptures as anything less than the infallible word of God. Uncompromised churches are stronger churches.

    How should the leadership look? It should be a team of elders, not all with the same skills or abilities, but all should be deeply faithful, and absolutely Christ focused, and beyond reproach. They should have a good knowledge of the scriptures, and be deeply involved in everything the church does. Some should teach, some may not.

    Another useful link:

    These thoughts are just my off the top of my head, I have probably missed some critical things, or got some things wrong. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts….

  3. Thanks for raising this Sam. I wanted to weight in to prove I’m avidly reading! 😉

    The tendency for people in evangelical circles is to answer any question about “Biblical” theology with a theology of the Bible. I suspect Simon may have fallen into this trap a little bit.

    I think Simon would agree with me that leadership begins in vocation as against any understanding of expertise. This is the narrative throughout the Scriptures. The obvious case is the calling of David. Less obvious is the calling of Jesus of Nazareth!

    After that, leadership is defined in terms of character; not status or skill. I’d strongly dispute any attempt to cordon off leadership on gender barriers- in part because it assumes denominational concepts of leadership that are alien to the New Testament and also because, well, it’s alien to the New Testament. But I do think more pertinently that character-based leadership excludes selection methods that rely on competencies.

    We can elaborate on the pastoral epistles’ specification for the character of a leader but I think that the concept is summed up by saying those who lead are called to follow the Crucified God who came to serve not to be served.

    In terms of church structure, I think the New Testament is obviously polyvalent in its viable interpretations. As a traditional heavily Calvin-influenced Presbyterian, I see eldership as normative but the episcopal argument is so good it cannot be rejected.

    My baseline, take-away conviction is that the Bible has a much less developed theology of leadership than we would like and that the priesthood of all believers remains the unfinished business of the European reformation! 🙂

  4. Kevin,

    I agree with most of what you say, well certainly all the bits I understand!

    Church leadership is definitely a calling, not by any earthly status, and elders should be the exemplary servants. When there is a job to be done elders should be tripping over each other to volunteer.

    It is important to remember that church on earth will never be perfect, the model we use will never be perfect, the leadership will never be perfect (that doesnt mean we shouldn’t try). I must keep working on the planks in my own eye before worrying about the specks in others

  5. Thanks guys. I agree that first is the call to character and to service that is sacrificial. I would also add that to serve others is to help them discover and develop their gifts – so we can experience that priesthood of all believers.

    However the case in many churches is certainly not a priesthood of all believers but most often (despite the theory) the minister or the senior pastor tends to be a one ‘person’ 😉 show – for various reasons, or a small group of people do everything.

    My question is for churches in this scenario how do we practically move away from that towards seeing people flourishing as they serve each other by developing and using their gifts in community?

    I also wonder if we need to move towards a perspective of ‘what is God doing in the wider community that he wants us to join in on’, releasing people to serve in their neighbourhoods, workplaces and other spheres of influence rather than a mentality that seems to use up people’s time maintaining church programmes and activities.

  6. My short contribution…
    Gilbert Bilezikian’s Community 101 and other books propose that a one-man-band approach to leadership is based on the ‘sick church’ structure in the NT, and that churches that are ‘healthier’ have a larger community of members leading, serving etc. [And the ‘sick/unhealthy’ NT churches are not the ones we immediately think of…]

    If you haven’t already, I’d love you to read it, so I won’t say more here.

    I’d like to suggest, acknowledging the simplicity of this, that leaders need to be the ones who change first, not the people. What can we do to help leaders:
    – change their own perspective on the issue?
    – model that change personally and professionally?
    – teach and train the change?

    What do you think?

  7. I agree with Rachel. As an elder I think my primary goal must be to look after my own spiritual life, everything else will follow. We need to be the kinds of individuals who infect and inspire others with our attitude of service

  8. Might I suggest that leadership in churches is to be ‘credal’? By that I mean that if you’re assuming to lead a church (perhaps even that language is defunct in the light of the headship of Jesus and the guidance of the Spirit?) whether with other people or on your own you must first take your place with the historic church that has told the story of the faith particularly as handed down to us in creeds such as the apostles creed and nicene creed?

    Without citing this story, any leadership, whether communal, servant or otherwise is undirected and set loose apart from the church of Christ.

    Is this something of what you were suggesting, Kevin, when you said leadership is to be vocational?

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