Christian Leadership for Missions Introduction – part 1

The writing of this series on Christian Leadership comes from my own personal search for answers. The church as well as the secular world are in a crisis of leadership. God’s purposes in this world seem to have the lowest priority in the lives of many Christians. But there is an answer to our problem and it is found in Jesus Christ. Once we understand how Christ leads his body, our crisis is over. Jesus made the following statement to his disciples. Ten of them were indignant with the other two for asking Jesus who would sit at his right and left in his kingdom.

To better understand the leadership model of Christ (Christian Leadership for Missions), please read your Gospels two hours per day and highlight these verses in blue: Matthew 10:24-25; 18:1-4; 19:13-14; 19:27-28; 20:20-28; 23:5-12; 28:18 Mark 1:7; 3:20-22; 6:1-6; 8:31-33; 9:33-37; 10:13-16; 10:35-45; 12:38 Luke 1:32-33; 3:16; 4:24; 6:40; 7:28; 9:46-48; 10:21-22; 11:43; 12:1; 14:7-11; 17:7-10; 18:9-14; 18:15-19; 20:21; 20:45-47; 22:24-34; 22:61-62 John the entire chapter 13. If you already know about missions, do this with a disciple.

Use a blue ink pen (not gel) and use a little ruler to make the lines straight.

Example of highlighting the verses, (New International Version)

Let’s begin. The following verses are some of the most important when understanding Christian leadership according to Jesus. Note that Jesus says “Not so with you”.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”

(New International Version, Matthew 20:25-28).

One summer, my wife and I held a training course for missionary candidates. Many of them were considered the brightest future leaders from their organizations and denominations. They were excellent young people, but their understanding of leadership was far from the teaching of the New Testament. I began to write a series of devotionals on leadership which turned into this series. I can only credit the Father, his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for this long lesson in leadership. It puts the fear of God in my heart to bring this topic to you, but I feel compelled to share it as he has used it to minister so deeply to me. Please take your time and read through all the scriptures and references to scripture verses when reading through this website. If you skip them, you will miss the most important part of the message.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

(NIV, Eph. 4.15-16)

In order to understand leadership, we must understand how God leads us. We are part of a spiritual body that is connected to him who is the head. We are not independent members of this body, otherwise, we would not be a body at all. We cannot act autonomously and be members of his body. We may think that we are independent (Colossians 2:18-19), but actually, we are reliant on God and Christ for his life and leadership. We are reliant on him to lead us and guide us into his plans and purposes in this world. We are part of this spiritual body for a reason. God has plans and his body has its role in fulfilling these plans. It is essential to know that God leads and guides his body by the head who is his son Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit who he has given us (John 14:26). The central message of this series is that Christ is the head, he is the leader and we are not (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:10).

Below you find two diagrams: One is of worldly leadership and another is of spiritual leadership. The first diagram, a box, represents a typical worldly Christian leadership situation. The box represents an entity, be it a church building, an organization, a ministry, an agency, a seminary, or a project of some kind. There are about twenty small circles that represent people in the entity. The two larger circles represent the subordinates or sub-leaders. The largest circle represents the principal leader. He or she could be the founder, director, senior pastor, team leader, or some other title. His circle is thicker which represents experience, tenure, seniority, knowledge, education, charisma, public speaking ability, or any other trait that would make him be the one leading the rest who are following. The larger circle could also represent a committee, board, or leadership team.

The members inside the box are not necessarily completely outside the body of Christ (which is the second diagram). However, the box is divided from all the other boxes in the world to a certain degree, and that they are not following the original way Jesus Christ intended that the body operates. This second diagram, the circle, represents the body of Christ as it should be. It is actually how Christ sees us. The more we come into the realization or revelation that this is truly how we are, the more impact we will have in God’s true spiritual kingdom in the world.

The large circle is Christ who is the head. All the other smaller circles are individuals in his body. Note that they are all equal. They reside inside the large circle and are therefore being led by Christ Jesus himself. We are a body directed by one head. Many people know the teaching of the New Testaments and know this to be true, but live another reality more closely related to the worldly leadership model Jesus talked about in Matthew chapter twenty; “rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them”. As members of his body, we have roles that are different but they are all on the same level and are under one authority who is Christ. The scripture clearly teaches us that this is the way we are to be, but it will take time for you to comprehend it. Entities have been erected by men and women throughout the history of the Church and this model will not disappear overnight. But you can live as a member of the body within the circle of Jesus Christ. Near the end of this series, I will go into detail about how this all works in the real world. I have shown you these two diagrams now so that you have an idea about where we are heading with this long lesson in leadership.

Jesus is the head of his Church and we are his body. As members of his body, it is our part to do our work which is to speak the truth in love, grow up into him and build his kingdom (Ephesians. 4:16). My brothers and sisters, I am writing this series to tell you in love, that it is quite possible that you do not understand or operate under his true spiritual leadership but are under the worldly model of leadership. It is also possible that your understanding of leadership has been distorted by the world’s model. It is possible that because of your worldly understanding of leadership, your situations are fraught with problems. But there is hope. Jesus is on His throne and we can change if we will obey his teaching.

We all agree that many things in the Christian movement are distorted by the world’s influence. Leadership is just one more thing on a long list. Most people would also agree that our current model of leadership is not functioning and that we need a change. Human leadership is not functioning because Christ is not leading; humans are. Today’s Church leadership isn’t functioning well because it is human. Humans should not be leading the body of Christ in the world, Christ should. If you think that men and women should be leaders in the body, you do not understand leadership. You are thinking inside the box. If you think that men and women have the authority to guide others, you do not understand leadership. If you feel that human leaders are special and are a little more important than other individuals, you do not understand spiritual leadership. If you believe that all members of his body are equal under one head who is still actively leading us, you understand true spiritual leadership.

Probably the most important issue facing the Church today is our understanding of true spiritual leadership. When I use the word Church in this series, I refer to ekklisía (εκκλησία) meaning the entire body of believers throughout the earth whom God calls out from the world and into his spiritual kingdom. Until we understand that we are part of a spiritual body of which Christ is the head, and submit to his headship, we will not fulfill God’s purposes anytime soon. We, the ekklisía, will continue to be divided into independent entities, distracted and deviated by men and women and their worldly methods of leadership. If we are not fulfilling God’s purposes in the world, whose purposes are we fulfilling? If we are not building up the body in love, as each part does its work, Christ is not to blame. It is, however, confirmation that his body is not being led by him and still has much to learn. When I look at the present-day Church, it doesn’t look at all like what I find in the New Testament. It appears as though the body either does not understand or do what Jesus taught us to do. Whichever the case, the Church is not fulfilling God’s purposes and plans in this world. Something is not right with the way we humans are leading the body of Christ. And herein is the reason the Church is going astray; we humans are leading it. Are we truly part of his body if we are not submitted to him? How can we expect to accomplish his purposes if we are not doing things as he is leading us to do them? If we take leadership into our hands, and we lead as the world does, we are not in submission to Christ as the head. Furthermore, we will not accomplish God’s purposes.

If we are not accomplishing God’s purposes, it is not Christ’s fault but rather our lack of understanding or submission to his leadership

Stop and think about this for a moment. Are the Churches problems Jesus’s fault? Did he not give us enough of something we need to properly advance his kingdom? Are we lacking something in him that hinders us from being a body that is “growing up into him who is the Head?” (Ephesians 4:15). The answer is no, we are not lacking anything. Jesus has provided it all (2 Peter 1:3). It is not God’s fault, nor is it Christ’s, it is ours. The problems that are in the body of Christ are caused by us and we need to submit to him so that he can resolve them. We are a spiritual body, interdependent members that are connected to him, but if we are not submitted to him, we will continue to try to lead. And when we lead, we will lead incorrectly. We need Jesus to lead. He will not fail us. He is the Word, he is the truth and the life and we have what we need to be effective members of his body (James 1:4-5). All we have to do is let go of our desires and self-confidence we have to lead and allow him to take away our ambitions, pride, jealousy, quarrels over doctrine, and desire for power, prestige, and money (2 Peter 1:3-11).

You can gain a clear and simple understanding of leadership by looking to Jesus. What you need is written down in the New Testament. I am amazed at how much teaching there is on leadership in the New Testament. Everywhere you find verses about submission, obedience, serving, loving, and agreeing with one another, you are being taught about leadership. His teaching leads and guides. We must know his teaching thoroughly, after all, he is our head. He knows what he is doing, and, he is the answer to all our leadership problems. The members of the body need to be rightly submitted to Christ’s headship. Jesus is the head of the Church and being the head means that he leads. Jesus alone is the leader of the body. All other men and women are subject to him and therefore are to do their part so that “the whole body,, grows and builds itself up” (Ephesians 4:16).  If you don’t believe that humans are the cause of the problems in Christs’ body, you need to keep reading. If what I write offends your pride, you need to keep reading this series and, more importantly, your Gospels. If you have always been taught that you are a leader, you need to read this series. Take the time to carefully look over every scripture passage and every reference. They are essential for getting the Biblical truth about the topic. You will need your Bible at your side. You won’t be changed by this series. You will need to get into the scriptures and seek God. Leadership is very important and understanding it will change your life if you get into the Bible. This series’ purpose is to give you a starting point. Look to Christ, he is your leader. I could write an entire chapter on the problems in the Church, the world, and how our modern Christian leadership has failed. Instead, I will just motivate you to go to the source so that he can change us.

Let’s take a moment to look at a few items of historical background that are important when studying leadership in the New Testament. The Messiah appeared in the region of Palestine to accomplish his ministry. All of his disciples were Jews with the possible exception of Luke. Hebrew law established its leadership by counsels who were led by one main leader called a Nasi (נָשִׂיא). The Nasi is referred to in the New Testament as “the high priest,” and he had subordinate leaders under him. Many other styles of leadership were imposed on the Jewish people during the occupation of their conquering enemies. Among them were Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Antiochus, and Pompey. These murderous authoritarian leaders and their subordinate leaders ruled over them for centuries influencing them with foreign ideas and religions. Their reigns influenced the forefathers of the disciples which certainly had an influence on the disciples’ view of leadership. The most important city to the Jewish people was Jerusalem which was destroyed on more than one occasion. So by the time, Jesus’s disciples began to grasp that he was going to become their king, they automatically thought that he would be liberating the Jews and their great city from the prevailing rulers, the Roman Empire. They were looking forward to the time when Jesus would establish his earthly kingdom and become the King of the Jews (Matthew 27:37). They were also greatly anticipating who he would choose as his subordinate leaders (Mark 9:33; Luke 9:46). They all assumed that they were to be subordinate leaders below Christ. They occasionally argued about who would take his place once he was gone (Matthew 20:21; Mark 9:34; 10:34; Luke 22:24). This is what all worldly forms of leadership look forward to. Consequently, the disciples thought that they would be in the high court with the new king. They thought he had chosen them to become leaders in his earthly kingdom. Obviously, they were wrong. Jesus had other plans in mind.