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Coming Down From The Mountain 10.2.06

 

Four myths regarding Christian leadership.



Myth #1. “There is nothing wrong with being respected and honored. Everyone enjoys it.”

It was not the nature of Jesus to be set on a pedestal. He wanted to mix in with the people of God. His desire was for people to see Him as they did themselves. He desired to know them on a personal level and to be a support and encouragement to them. Their trust in Him was natural because He was one of them. Jesus demonstrated for us what He meant by being “the servant of all.” Servants don’t see themselves as anything: they have no title, they do not rule anyone, and no one esteems them. The best they can ever hope to be is adequate - to simply do what is required of them.

Luke 17:7-10 KJV

7 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.


When you consider this, you must agree that most Christian leaders do not have a servant’s mindset. To begin with, they believe that they are profitable. In fact, many believe that they are the only ones who are. Many see themselves as the most important element of the Church. They see themselves as essential. They enjoy standing or sitting up front on their raised platforms. They enjoy commanding silence as everyone listens. They enjoy their private entrance, having the final word, having people come to them for approval. In short, they enjoy being esteemed. The last thing they believe is that they are unprofitable.

Where is the humility among the contemporary Christian elite? Modern Christian leaders are focused on building their empires. They advertise it instead of Christ (i.e. John Doe Ministries, or Jane Doe Prophetic Center). Ask yourself, what would change in the life of the average Christian it one or more of these ministry empires simply vanished. Christians would still serve God, they’d still raise godly children, and they’d continue to be a light to this world. Nothing would change. These Christian ministries exist simply to serve themselves. And in the end they are only profitable to themselves.

I enjoy spending time with Christians who know nothing about me. During these brief moments, I find myself close to a heart that has God living in it. I don’t have to go up onto a mountain to be near God; I can find Him in His people. What they say echoes the voice of the Holy Spirit. Each child of God has a unique relationship with Him and therefore a unique perspective. Imagine the privilege we enjoy in being able to spend time with one of God’s children. That’s what many Christian leaders lose in being esteemed. They lose the ability to enjoy God’s children the way He does. Perhaps if they spent less time up on the mountain…

Myth #2. “As Church leaders, all we are to do is what we feel God has called us to do.”

There was a time in church history when there was no TV, radio, magazines, books, Christian forums, or email, and even traveling across town was done on foot. It’s easy to understand that in a culture such as this, access to information is valued. During the first century church, prophets and teachers would travel from city to city bringing the message God gave them to local assemblies who were eager to hear more of the evolving revelation of God. People wanted it. But things have changed within Christendom.

Today, in order for a teacher or prophet to get an audience, they have to create one. Pastors “protect” their flock by preventing others from coming in or by requiring them to join their organization (in some manner). Teachers and prophets are no longer welcome in a local assembly (unless they belong to that specific denomination). So more and more ministers are discovering that in order to get an audience, they need a church. Take Meridian, Mississippi, for example. Some documents place this city of 40,000 to have one church for every 146 adults. This does not even consider all the house churches, Bible studies, and other religious groups. Sullivan County, Tennessee, brags of having one church for every 40 people, and some sources have Hoboken, New Jersey (pop. 38,5000), to have one church for every city block. Many cities are now invoking local ordinances to limit the number of churches.

The closed nature of pulpits and a need for people to share the message God gave them has given rise to the popularity of house churches. Many mature Christians often become rejected by their pastors and labeled as troublemakers. More often than not, it is because they grew enough spiritually to become a peer to the pastor. The pastor often feels threatened by the views of an influential member who does not see completely eye-to-eye or questions his control or decisions. This individual is eventually seen as competition and pressured into leaving. I have met hundreds of individuals who describe this same story: a pastor uses manipulation, politics, and gossip to drive out a mature Christian who dares to question him. The pastors believe that such Christians must be subjugated regardless of their spiritual maturity. Many house churches have begun because pastors just don’t know what to do with mature Christians who question them or disagree with them.

People should not have to create a new church group in order for them to express their gift(s) in the Lord. If a house church begins, it should be because this is the direction and leading of the Lord, not because someone needs an avenue to express his message. The biggest reason for stagnation in churches is due to the limitations that pastors put upon their congregations. People are no different from their pastors. They want to do what they sense God has called them to do as well. Why must they leave their churches to do it?

By discouraging the freedom of other types of ministries to operate within the local body of Christ, pastors have forced all ministers to become pastors. I do not believe that this is what God intended. Teachers and prophets are no longer welcome to travel abroad bringing their revelation to the rest of God’s people. Today, they must create circuits of churches that will receive them. These become a sort of mini-denomination. But most prophets and teachers succumb to the barriers and turn into a pastor of a local assembly.

Myth #3. “As leaders, we are to administer, manage, and direct the service as we sense and discern the direction of the Spirit. We are to discern the spirits.”

Almost all pastors believe this and will even say it out loud. Their congregations also know they believe this way. But have they ever considered how their congregations interpret it? Most Christians are self-conscious about their spiritual knowledge and gifts. Most become so overly concerned that they will do something wrong and get corrected by the pastor that they never do anything. So what do we see as a result of this? All of Christendom expecting pastors to do everything. People don’t evangelize, operate in their gifts, or do anything else because they might do it wrong and then the pastor will step in and they will find themselves in trouble. Most Christians know of friends who for one reason or another have gotten into trouble and are now no longer a part of the church. To avoid the trouble that often comes from stretching their wings, people often do nothing. So everything falls on the pastor to do. As a result, pastors walk around complaining that everything falls on them, but the truth is they really enjoy it! If they do everything themselves, then they know things will be done “right,” and everyone will know how important and how truly indispensable they really are.

A church should be a school where people feel free to make mistakes, a place where they feel free to exercise their spiritual gifts because they know they are supposed to, a place where they know that they will not be rebuked or scolded for getting it wrong, a place where they can mature and, in time, help others. This is how the original Christians operated. When one church (the church of Corinth) fell into chaos, Paul set in place a temporary structure to help them operate correctly. He did not prohibit the use of gifts. He helped them get it right. However, if one of today’s pastors entered a church like that, he would “put his foot down” and effectively end most (if not all) manifestations of spiritual gifts. In no time flat, Corinth would be transformed into today’s powerless pastor-controlled church.

Where in the scripture does it say that all other gifts and ministries must be in submission/subjection to the gift of the pastor?

Consider the following scripture:

I Corinthians 12:27-28 KJV

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

Where are pastors in this list? They are at the bottom of it (governments), just above diversity of tongues. Why, then, do pastors feel that all other gifts in the church must be subject to them? Why do they believe that they are the ultimate authority? The truth is that pastors were meant to operate WITH other ministries, not OVER them.

Someone sent this to me. A single page from the journal of John Wesley reads:

"Sunday a.m., May 5 -Preached in St. Ann's; was asked not to come back any more.

Sunday p.m., May 5- Preached at St. John's; deacons said, 'Get out and stay out.'

Sunday a.m., May 12 - Preached at St. Jude's; can't go back there either.

Sunday p.m., May 12-Preached at St. George's; kicked out again.

Sunday a.m., May 19- Preached at St. Somebody Else's; deacons called a special meeting and said I couldn't return.

Sunday p.m., May 19 - Preached on the street; kicked off the street.

Sunday a.m., May 26- Preached out in a meadow; chased out of meadow when a bull was turned loose during the service.

Sunday a.m., June 2- Preached out at the edge of town; kicked off the highway.

Sunday p.m., June 2- Afternoon service, preached in pasture; 10,000 people came."

Have you every wondered if perhaps a John Wesley has ever visited your church? How was he treated? Was he dismissed? Perhaps a growing or mature Christian who challenges your views may someday become a prominent Christian leader. Would you find in his journal such an entry concerning your church? What about an angel? Could it be that a person who questioned the wisdom of your decision was, in fact, an angel you “entertained unaware?” How was he treated? How was he received? Do you absolutely know that you treated all God’s children with the dignity and respect due one of His children?

I know many pastors, and they are all different. Each of them would probably handle each situation differently. So who is correct? To whom should people listen? With the pastoral mentality of being the final authority for their churches, people just better hope they find that pastor who is absolutely right all the time. Statements like, “we are to administer, manage, and direct the service as we sense and discern the direction of the Spirit” are COMPLETELY subjective. Depending on your own spiritual gift(s), you may sense something different from what others sense in a meeting. If you are not a prophet, you might not realize that God wants to speak prophetically. But those gifted in that area will know. If pastors are to manage and direct the meetings, how are those who are gifted in other ministries able to operate? Unless pastors believe that they possess all ministries and all the spiritual gifts, how could they possibly know which way to direct a meeting? Such statements clearly say, “God cannot do anything without running it past me first.” It places all gifts and ministries in subjection to the ministry of the pastor.

Having been a pastor before, I understand why pastors see themselves as a sort of parent over people, especially young Christians. But why would pastors feel the need to take on a parental role to people who have been ten or twenty years in the Lord? Is there no point at which people grow out from under their supervision? Will they never be allowed to grow up? And if they do grow up, will they need to leave the church?

Also, if “a” pastor represents the final authority in a local church government (and given the closed nature of most church operations) who, then, could ever correct them? Would they always be right? Pastors who operate this way had better never get it wrong. Remember the warning of Jesus concerning the little ones:

Matthew 18:4-6 KJV

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Myth #4. “As pastors, our job is to be like Moses. We hear from God and deliver His word to the people.”

This myth implies that God cannot or will not speak directly to His people. It contradicts such scriptures as:

John 14:26 KJV
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

1 John 2:20 KJV

But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.

Jeremiah 31:33-34 KJV

33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Such a statement implies that people held in prison in foreign countries are less knowledgeable about God since they do not have access to pastors or other Christian leaders. It means that they cannot be as spiritually developed as those with pastors. I’m not suggesting that pastors do not have a word; I AM suggesting that the word they have is no greater or more important than the word He speaks to any of His other children.

This myth also implies that God’s New Testament model is to have classes of Christians. It implies that not everybody is invited to go up the mountain, and that God wants a close relationship with only a few, or an inner circle, if you will. God has never wanted this. It was this way in the Old Testament only because “…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).” However, in the New Testament “…God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10).”

God once chose men to speak through since His people did not have his indwelling Spirit. But that is no longer the case. God no longer has to come down in a cloud or appear through an angel to give us instruction. He no longer needs a Moses to voice His will. This is because “…when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come (John 16:13).”

Conclusion

It is generally accepted that Joshua followed Moses (at least part way) up Mount Sinai when the law was given. The scripture is quite vague here. Also, the scripture is not clear whether Moses asked him to go along or God wanted him there. What we do know is that both leaders whom God would use to bring His people to the Promised Land to conquer it were missing when the people built the golden calf. What would have happened if Joshua had stayed “among” the people? Would his voice of authority have been enough to prevent God’s people from committing idolatry? Did him going up the mountain affect anything?

I typically try to stay away from presenting a model. However the nature of this document makes it unavoidable. For if these statements are myths, what, then, is right?

Try to imagine an “evolving plurality” of elders (i.e., pastors or bishops), a group of natives (as opposed to missionaries or “transplanted leaders”) of the area (i.e., they lived there long enough to call that place their home) who make up a leadership team. Their function is NOT to direct and manage the meeting but to mentor other young Christians to be able to take over the mentoring function themselves. Their meetings belong to God. Therefore, decisions are not made by a few elite but by the entire body. In this model, leadership is not closed. “Closed” means that only a select few can be leaders and they continue to lead until they vacate their office. Instead, everyone is able to grow into leadership. There is no limit. They are responsible for the financial and everyday affairs of the church, but they exercise no control over the people. They provide wisdom, insight, and suggestions, but their role does not cross over into control or rule. They are role models. The team exists to make each leader aware that their opinion and view is not sacred and that they must work with the rest the body. In short, it is to prevent any dominant individual from exercising dominion over others. In this type of plurality, some leaders may not feel directed to teach. Some may feel directed toward outside ministries, like prison ministries, food pantries, etc.

Being a part of the plurality obligates each of the other leaders to aid each other in every way necessary to help them be successful in the endeavors to which God has called them. It guarantees that dominant people do not take advantage and bully others with their views. It exists for the protection of the congregation as opposed to the control of it.

In short, plurality is NOT:

· a decision-making body (a committee), or

· a group that controls and directs the meetings.

Instead, plurality should:

· be open (allowing others to grow into eldership),

· protect people from domineering personalities,

· offer mentorship as opposed to lordship, and

· insure that the vision each member of the body has from the Lord is realized.


With committees, everyone is looking out for self. It is easy to identify a committee because you will find people seeking to control others, whereas pluralities are all about empowerment of others. Committees use politics (manipulation) to gain advantage; pluralities operate through the unity of the Spirit to produce balance. In a true plurality, no one has control but God.

So what about structure? Is having structure wrong? Is it wrong to have a meeting structured, organized, and orchestrated? Not if that’s what you want. Structured meetings guarantee that other spiritual gifts (other than those who orchestrate the meeting) will not have a part in the meeting. I generally encourage structured meetings for Bible studies or meetings with special purpose, guest speakers or presentations. In these meetings, study notes can be prepared in advance and the teaching can be highly focused. There’s nothing wrong with this. However, if you are looking for a type of meeting that allows ALL (including youths) to grow and develop spiritually, then structure is not the solution. Meetings can also be mixed with both spontaneity and structure.

For maximum spiritual growth, all people must feel free to use their gifts regardless of whether or not they are elders. The elder’s authority does not include judging (discerning) the spiritual gifts of others. This should be left to either the body (congregation) or by consensus of those who have like gifts. Consider the following scripture:


1 Corinthians 14:29-30 KJV

29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.

In a mature group, pluralities should form (informally) around spiritual gifts. Teachers and prophets alike should learn to work together rather than against each other (competition). Trying to create this model out of pure human effort will lead to division and control. If everyone seeks the welfare of others and the Holy Spirit is allowed to operate, these things will develop quite [super]naturally.

The important things to remember:

· Unless deliberately structured, no one except the Holy Spirit should have control over the meeting.

· No one’s spiritual gift is more important than another’s.

· Our purpose in the body of Christ is to grow into the image of Christ and mentor others.

· Everyone should participate in the body of Christ according to the gift that is at work in him or her.

· No one has the exclusive ear to what God says to His people. No one.
 


Amen

kmsrjs@triton.net

 

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