Month after month, year after year the pastor would come to church board meetings, announce the specific plans God had told him that the church should take, and expect the church board to automatically approve the plans. Finally, one elder said, “All the rest of us on the board have been walking with the Lord for years, confessing our sins, seeking God’s guidance for this church, and we don’t sense God leading in the direction you’ve recommended. We vote “No””.
Message to pastor: you don’t have a monopoly on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not speak only to you.
Another pastor was asked about the leadership team meetings at his church. His response: “What team meetings? They do what I tell them to do”.
Message to pastor: you don’t know the difference between staff and team. Staff follows orders. (But even with staff, remember the person is always more important that the job and should be treated with love and respect. You never know when one of the staff might have a great idea or suggestion for you, and they need to know that you would welcome their input. You will certainly want these people to cover for you when you make mistakes; you need to do the same for them. Be the kind of leader that people gladly help; don’t ever exploit anyone.) A team deliberates and comes to a consensus. Your church members are not your puppets to manipulate at your will. Their opinions are worth listening to.
Ten pastors of large churches were having a discussion. Nine of them had shared how they resolve differences among the leadership team. When it was time for the tenth pastor to talk, he said: “I don’t know what you are talking about. The church leadership does what I say, or they are fired”.
Message to pastor: condolences to your church family.
How sad that those pastors seem to have missed the clear lesson on decision making from the early church:
Judas’ vacancy in the 12 must be filled.
20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:
“‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’
“‘May another take his place of leadership…………..
23 So they nominated two men……. 24Then they prayed……. 26Then they cast lots…….
and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit a consensus decision was reached. Let’s not get sidetracked by their using lots which is an Old Testament decision making tool. The point is that they prayed, and all agreed with the outcome.
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit a consensus was reached.
Now in the church at Antioch………………While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit a consensus was reached.
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles.15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
16 “‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’—
18 things known from long ago.
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit a consensus was reached.
Do you notice some similarities in those verses?
Do you see Peter telling the others that God had told him such and such, and everyone else is expected to shut up and rubber stamp Peter’s recommendation? Does he demand his own way? Yell? Pound the table?
How many times is he ordering people to obey him?
How many times is he telling anyone who disagrees with him that they are unspiritual? That they are fired?
No, you don’t see any of that.
What you do see is listening, respectful dialogue, unrushed deliberating resulting in consensus. That should not surprise us. After all there is only one Holy Spirit who speaks to all believers. The Holy Spirit is hardly going to give conflicting guidance.
So – it is hard to fathom how some pastors can make no secret of the fact “they are the boss”.
To drive home this point let’s considering the following:
Matthew 16:18 I will build MY church. Whom does the church belong to? Not the pastor. Not anyone but Jesus.
John 21:15 “Feed MY lambs.
John 21:16 He said to him a second time…………“Tend MY sheep.”
John 21:17 He said to him the third time ……………“Feed MY sheep.”
Whom do believers belong to? Jesus. Not pastors. Not elders. Not disciplers. And be sure of this: if they are Jesus’ sheep, you know He takes good care of His own. He will hold you accountable. He will reward you for good oversight of His sheep and rebuke you for maltreatment.
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
James and John had just requested special status in heaven. Come on guys, don’t mimic unsaved people. That’s how they act. Sadly today that attitude is alive and well with “go-getters and status-seekers, hungry for honor and prestige, measuring life by achievement and continually dreaming of success. They are aggressively ambitious for themselves. Jesus’ obsession was the glory of God and the good of men who bear his image.”
6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.
No one understands religious pride like Jesus does. In this chapter we have the most scorching words ever to come from His mouth. His target is religious leaders reeking of pride, blatant selfishness, self-superiority and religious hypocrisy. They were better than anyone else – just ask them. They thought themselves above the people and awarded themselves special titles, clothes, etc. They loved being in the spotlight. In marked contrast Jesus prohibited His disciples from using honorific titles, calling one another Rabbi, exalting themselves in any way that would diminish their brotherly relationships or usurping the unique place that Christ and the Father have over each believer.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Hey, leaders! It’s not about you. Stop exalting yourself. Your self-absorption is nauseating. A veteran missionary writes: “I am amazed at the thought of how little humility is sought after as the distinguishing feature of the disciples of Jesus. Look around the church – how much more proof is there that humility is not esteemed the cardinal virtue.”
“When we reflect on the history of the church are we not bound to confess that she has failed to follow the example of her Founder? All too often she has worn the robes of a ruler, not the apron of the servant.“
After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
Jesus did not order someone else to wash feet. He could have. He did it Himself.
1 Peter 5:1f
I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,[a] not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;[b] not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
Some key guidance here from Peter: Reject boss rule; be a servant leader. We need to look at two key words: “domineering” and “example”.
“Domineering” means to completely dominate, to come down on people, to be an autocrat, to intimidate, to be harsh and hard. Domineering leaders don’t want to hear from you, don’t want your opinion, just want you to get in line and do what they tell you. That’s not how a shepherd leads the flock of God.
“The authority of a genuine servant leader comes from the Word. When a leader speaks the Word, that’s his authority. The rest of the time he doesn’t have any authority, then he becomes a servant. Authority comes from the Word, all the rest of the time leaders serve the sheep. Sheep are not to be dominated. They are to be treated with tenderness and care”.
“Examples”: “The single truest quality of leadership is the power of an exemplary life. It’s the power of your life that is essentially what leadership is. As an overseer, as a shepherd, you must move among the sheep and set an example. They need to be close enough to you to see your life. It has to come naturally out of the flow of personal living so you truly prove “to be examples to the flock.” “
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
God hates pride so much that He gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him from exalting himself and to force him to be dependent on his Creator. Should you be asking God for a thorn? “Pride is certainly the chief occupational hazard of the preacher.” We must face it head on.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
A servant leader genuinely loves his people with gentleness and humility.
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
True greatness does not come from status or position or lusting for power but by self-inconspicuousness. The boss seeks to control others and promote self. But it is “difficult to stand on a pedestal and wash feet below. The lure of power can separate the most resolute believer from the true nature of leadership.”
So much for Jesus.
It’s Paul’s turn.
2 Corinthians 1:23-24
But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
Paul would rather suffer than risk wounding his children in the faith.
1 Corinthians 4:21
What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
He would rather appeal than command, choosing to deal with people in love and gentleness than a rod.
1 Corinthians 10:33
33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
He sacrificed all personal gain and advantage for the sake of others.
2 Corinthians 4:5
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants[a] for Jesus’ sake
Beware of turning your teaching opportunities into nothing but self promotion. Beware of the speaker who is always the hero of his own stories. Servant leaders do not dictate. They do not command the consciences of the brother; they appeal to brothers to follow the Word.
But perhaps Paul’s greatest testimony to servant leadership and not boss rule is Philemon. Think about it. If Paul were a boss, instead of 25 verses, Philemon would have one verse: “I, Paul, the exalted apostle, Bible writer, church planter, and evangelist, order you to forgive Onesimus.”
But Paul is not a boss, hence he writes in Philemon:
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,
By rejecting boss rule, the book of Philemon becomes a powerful demonstration of a servant leader using persuasion and reason to guide a brother to a wise decision. The book reeks of diplomacy not domination.
Want to see a 21st century servant leader in action? The senior pastor of a large Asian church gathers all other pastors and staff every Monday morning for a meeting, a “Question and Contribution” meeting. Each person present can ask any question he wants and is also free to contribute any idea or recommendation he wants. That servant leader senior pastor is making it clear he has no monopoly on wisdom. Leaders, like anyone else, can have blind spots, and such a discussion might bring those shortcomings to light. Loud and clear the message to every staff person is that their opinion matters, their concerns will be heard. No wonder God has blessed that church so mightily and morale among the leaders is high.
Want another example of a church that rejects boss rule and opts for servant leadership instead? Listen to this:
The leaders of a church faced an important decision. As they went around the room all agreed on the recommendation of the pastor – until the last person in the room spoke up quietly. He shared several reservations he had about the proposal. The pastor suggested they all pray about it and meet again in two weeks.
Two weeks passed. When they met again one by one everyone in the room shared flaws they saw in the recommendation. They actually listened to each other….and soon all agreed to drop the proposal – including the pastor. That is servant leadership in action. And that is one blessed church. “The heart of every leader must be humble, seeking the good of others and suspicious of one’s own motives.”
Want to grow as servant leader? Why not personalize
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 as follows:
I am patient,
I am kind,
I don’t envy.
I do not boast;
I am not arrogant
I am not rude.
I do not insist on my own way;
I am not irritable
I am not resentful
I do not rejoice at wrongdoing,
I rejoice with the truth.
I bear all things,
I believe all things,
I hope all things,
I endure all things.
Did you find yourself doing some confessing as you worked your way through that?
If that is the kind of leader you aim to be, what a blessing you will be to all!
Considering all the verses we have look at
and all the verses we could have looked at
it’s clear a leader has to do some heavy editing of the Bible
to ignore the call to servant leadership.
Servant leadership, yes! Boss rule, no!