Things I Have Learned in Ministry
Things I have Learned - The position of Ministry
1 Timothy 2:4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.
Position is everything, or so we were told in Police Academy. You never want to stand where you are out of position.
When I was a young man I was reading a great book by Robert K. Greenleaf, entitled, Servant Leadership. It rocked my world. If his presentation was true, then most of the leadership models I saw around me were out of place. Of course, It was expected in politics. The leader was the boss. It was he who had superior knowledge and power and who expected the rest of us to applaud their performance on the stage of leadership. It was a top/down model as it has always been. But Greenleaf was presenting a different model.
Later in police academy, I was faced with a similar modeling in the self-defense portion of the classes. It was the art of Judo. It was one of the only martial arts that does not face the opponent but works from the side. It is the fine art of allowing your opponent’s momentum to work against them, by sidestepping their attack and then allowing them to move past you, allowing you to work from the side or back.
It was also presented in a class called Vernal Judo, in which you never engage in a contest of words but allow the other person to say what they want to say, without buying into it, which you side step their verbal barrage and attack to do what you need to do.
I put the academy training together with Greenleaf and decided that Jesus was right when He said. “Matthew 20:24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,”
Yet I looked around to see the church filled with the posturing for high office, for stature and for obedience. It was not too long ago that the “Shepherding Movement” demanded that everyone should be submitted to someone, except of course the guy at the top of the pyramid. It was typical top/down leadership as might be found in any corporation or military unit.
Organizational charts always had the leader at the top and the rest of us, well., somewhere else. Historically, this was one of the issues of the reformation – direct access to God. Yet, even those who followed Luther seemed to slip up on the implementation of the concept by creating organizational structures similar to the one they left.
And this is the indictment of the church, that we periodically have a revelation of God unlimited and of every person having a personal relationship, but then we identify it, catalog it and structure it into a top/down authority structure. It is not that we are consciously trying to do so, it is that we do not seem to see an alternative and end up back at square one. It is simply that everything needs to have structure, of so we think and in the process of organizing, we do what we know to do, and repeat the past.
The justification for Christian leadership is that someone have to lead and other have to follow. Right? But of course! And those who have leadership have to have justification for maintaining their position. So, the theory is, obviously, that God gave some to be leaders and in them is special wisdom and a deposit of the anointing of God to their office, so that, if you want to hear from God, you have to receive His word through His appointed leaders. Right? Of course, it is right, how else could it work?
I feel twinges of guilt as I write this for I participated fully in the concept. But how then do we handle the concept that there is – “one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” How can this be if some have greater revelation that others?
Do we understand the dilemma at this point?
It was later in life that I began to read the theologians of the past, Locke, Burke, Basitat, and others. It was their understanding that sparked the revolution that was the egis of the United States. The concept was that power did not reside in an all-powerful and al- knowing king, but that all men had access to God and that authority flowed from God to the individual and then the individuals loaned power to the leaders. The power was not in the state but in the people, who empowered the state. The state existed at the will of the people.
In this structure, every individual was endowed with certain unalienable rights by their creator. Period. End of story. Those right and that relationship individually with God was never to be surrendered to the state as superior or all knowing. To do so would be tantamount to creating another king.
This same concept has been there in the Bible since it was written and since Jesus became the servant king. God relates directly to the individual.
Many year ago, a couple came to me asking if they should buy a car they wanted. I did not answer them, but asked instead, why they would ask me a question like that. They told me the story of their pastor telling them that they were not mature enough to make good decisions and that they needed to be under his leadership. So, they asked him if they could buy the car. He told them no, it was too expensive, it as too new and it was red. Red was a color of passion, emotion and evil, therefore their attraction to the red car betrayed their evil intentions. I laughed out loud.
I told them that I was not going to make that decision for them and then be blamed for whatever consequences came their way. It was between God and them personally, and I serious doubted if God cared one bit, particularly about the color. God does not create dependency. People who want power over others do.
Godly leadership is not weak, nor is it indecisive, but it does not work from the top down but from the side as encourager, mentor and guide. It is not heavy handed or insecure nor does it fell that the leader is the only one who has a relationship with God and speaks for God. God is fully capable of speaking for Himself to anyone who will listen.
Power does not flow from God through congress, the governor’s office or the president. Neither does it flow from God to the apostle, prophet and pastor. It flows directly from God to the individual. DO people always get it right? Of course not. But making them dependent on our leadership does not mature them either.
Just as America walked into the light of freedom and embraced God as the leader, so also must the church bring freedom to the people and release them to be intimately and personally related to the God who made them. Anything less is tyranny.
So, should the church be leaderless? Not at all. It is not a matter or yes or no, but of posture and where we stand. A Christian leader stands beside to lead, beneath to support and above to take the heat. The leader is the servant not the superior.