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Leadership or service - What did Jesus say - Not so among you
Terry Gardner
The Examiner

"I feel God has called me to a position (?) of leadership and any time God gets ready to remove me out of leadership it's O.K. with me."

Men by nature seek and enjoy positions of power and leadership. Jesus' early disciples had this same attitude. The mother of James and John came to Jesus seeking power for her two sons. She asked that "these my two sons may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy Kingdom" (Matt. 20:21). The ten, when they heard this request "were moved to indignation" (Matt. 20:24). The ten were no different than the two; they also wanted the "position of leadership."


Jesus' View of Power
Jesus' view was made clear in Matthew:

"But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant: even as the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:25-27).

The Kingdom of God and kingdoms of this world are opposites. In the kingdoms of this world "great ones exercise authority over them." This is true regardless of the kind of men the "great ones" are...they have positions of office. 

A King can therefore command evil and it be done because "the King's word hath power; and who may say unto him, What are you doing?" (Eccl. 8:4). In the military service we were often instructed that the Colonel might be an incompetent bum but we had to respect his rank and position even if we had no respect for him personally. Indeed the Colonel's word had power and no Private could say to him, "What are you doing?"

The Kingdom of God is the opposite of the governments and kingdoms of this world. Jesus' statement about the great ones "who exercise authority over them" is: "NOT SO SHALL IT BE AMONG YOU." There are no positions of authority. There is no man whose word has power over another. No one has the right in God's kingdom to "lord it over them" (exercise authority). 

Jesus has spoken and said "NOT SO!"

Jesus' emphasis was not on LEADERSHIP or POWER, it was on SERVICE. Jesus' teaching was "whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister (servant)." "Minister" is not another word for "Preacher" but rather the idea is that of a domestic servant who ministers (serves) to the household by the performance of menial tasks like cooking and cleaning. Jesus further taught "whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant" (slave). The servant or slave of the first century had no rights. They were property and they lived or died based on the whims of their masters. Jesus thus advised those who desire to be great or chief in God's Kingdom to serve like a domestic servant or slave.

Jesus illustrated the lesson of service in his own life. Jesus "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). Jesus, to whom God gave "all authority," led only by his Godly example. Jesus did the most menial of tasks in washing his disciples' feet. He ate with Publicans and sinners. He loved people and finally "gave his life a ransom for many!" Did Jesus "Lord it over" the disciples? Did Jesus "exercise authority" over his disciples? NEVER! Why? He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister" Jesus led men by his example, not by occupying a position of authority over others ....


Modern Views of Power In The Church

While Jesus the Son of God led only by example, many preachers, teachers and elders believe God has given them "POSITIONS" of leadership and power. One preacher recently stated, "I feel God has called me to a position of leadership. Any time God gets ready to move me out of leadership, it's OK!" 

Will this "LEADER" decide for God when and if such a time ever comes?? Jesus refused to grant the request of the mother of James and John for positions of power. Modern preachers place themselves ahead of the apostles and believe God has granted to them what Jesus said he COULD NOT grant.


An Example

A brother was recently withdrawn from by the church because he questioned clapping after baptisms or as a part of congregational singing. (He could not participate in good conscience.) Among the passages used to cast the brother out of the church were Acts 5 where Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Spirit and Titus 3:10: "A factious man after the first and second admonition refuse." 

This occurred because he refused to clap his hands! The real issue was not clapping but "authority." Those in "leadership" were distressed because the brother refused to conform to their "divine edict." "God has placed them in a position of authority (leadership)" and therefore the failure of the brother to clap incensed them. How dare anyone not follow our rules!

The Pharisees of Jesus' day had the same attitude. They held positions of power and authority. They made the rules and forced everyone else to follow them. Neither their attitude nor their rules impressed Jesus. Jesus violated these "rules" every chance he had. One rule of the Pharisees concerned the washing of hands. This was ceremonial; not for cleanliness.  Neither Jesus nor his disciples kept this rule. They deliberately violated the rule to the amazement of the Pharisees.


Men Will Be Justified

The Pharisees wished to justify themselves and degrade others including the Son of God. Jesus told the Pharisees: "Ye are they that justify yourselves in the sight of men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). Men love money, power, fame and success in the affairs of the world. These things have no value to the true disciple of the simple Galilean. The Pharisees "scoffed" at the Son of God because his teaching directly contradicted their precious traditions.

Men are no different in our own time. They still seek power and justify their use of it. Perhaps the most twisted verse in the New Testament by those who seek power is Hebrews 13:17: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account."  Many modern leaders assert that "THEM is "HIM"!  They say that when Paul said "obey THEM;" that means you must obey HIM -- today's person in a position of leadership; i.e., preacher, teacher, elder, etc. They further assert that this obedience is in matters of opinion. Paul clearly taught in vs. 7 of the same chapter that those with the "rule over you" were those "men that spoke unto you the word of God" (Heb. 13:7). These men spake the word of God by inspiration since the Bible was not yet in written form.

Opinions were areas of liberty. The binding of opinions was forbidden. Regarding the binding of opinions, Paul wrote: "Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? To his own Lord he standest or falleth. Yeah, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand" (Rom. 14:4). God will judge opinions and woe to the man who puts himself in God's place and judges the opinions of God's servant.

How Do You Lead?

Peter taught that leadership in the Kingdom of God is by "making yourselves examples to the flock" (I Peter 5:3). Jesus illustrated this with a life of service and ministry. Jesus lived the perfect example and was therefore the perfect leader. Jesus' only exercise of power was the life that he lived. Leaders lead by doing. When I was in "Bible College'' one of the Professors stated: "I don't convert anyone myself, but I teach those who will and am therefore doing more than I could if I was out holding studies with individuals.'' Jesus never thought like the Professor. Jesus taught by his example. Jesus was a doer out in the highways and byways -- with the poor and rich -- with prostitutes and sinners -- telling the Good News! This is true leadership.


Unity and peace in the body of Christ will come only with the leadership of example. Division will always result when opinions are bound. We must therefore follow men only as they follow Jesus -- our GREAT EXAMPLE!

See also, 

"Do Elders Rule"

 "Authority In Church Government".

"It is a shameful tragedy that men will exert such authoritarian rule over the saints of God and brazenly assert that such is in harmony, even the requirement, of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a blessing to this generation that there are some brethren who have stood against this insidious evil. We owe these brethren a debt of gratitude for their gallant opposition to this outrageous claim of papal power by those who "lord it over" the church." 

"Our fundamental mistake," writes Jay Smith, "is in supposing that the Biblical concept of an elder is one of authority. Few people seem to notice that most of the prerogatives we have assigned to elders are assumptions without foundation in the Scriptures. In our day, decision-making has become the primary function of elders, and yet in the New Testament we have not one example of a group of elders ever making a decision for God's people, or being instructed to do so" (Firm Foundation, January 31, 1978, p. 3). In the same article, Smith continues: "The New Testament knows nothing of elders appointing successors or fellow-elders, hiring and firing preachers, or holding elders' meetings to decide policy or the work of the church." Notwithstanding the absence of New Testament precedent or authority, these very functions appear to be the prime responsibilities of elders in the modern view. The view is currently popular that the elders are to function like a board of directors of a corporation, usually to meet in closed-door sessions, to decide policies of the church, and to hand down high level decisions that must be unquestionably followed. This represents the development of human dogma among us, not directives from the Scriptures."

"Whenever a man or set of men...assume to exercise authority in a church by virtue of some official appointment, or to assert, they have rights and authority as officers above others and assume to exert their rights, they should be resisted even to the disruption of the body. They are lording it over God's heritage, and are exalting their authority at the expense of the authority of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit." 

"Whenever a "church leader" claims authority or exercises power merely on official grounds, he is essentially a pope and claims the prerogatives of papacy as fully as does he of Rome. He may be a smaller one, his sphere of action may be more limited, but the principle is the same. All the evils of the papacy arise out of the claim of the Pope and his council to decide questions by virtue of official position."
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