Examples of Christian Leadership – part 19

“He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him”.

(NIV, John 7:18 18)

Jesus sends us. We work for him. He sends us to work being his representatives in this world. He is the boss, we are the workers. I hope that this book has clarified one major point: Jesus is the real leader here.

There is no subordinate leadership in the kingdom of God, simply because Jesus is God, and God is so high and exalted that we cannot compete with him. We are too small. Our feeble attempt at elevating ourselves would only result in us falling flat on our faces (Luke 14:11). He is THE high priest (Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 6:20). He is a thousand-story building and we are all on the first floor. More precisely, we are on the first floor laying prostrate on the ground. There is no seniority in the kingdom of God because he has been here since before the creation of the world. Our short-lived span on earth doesn’t amount to enough to time to measure up to him. He is THE first and last, THE Alpha and Omega (Revelation 22:13). There is no wise and experienced one in the kingdom of God because Jesus is the only teacher and operates under God’s wisdom. He is THE Rabbi (John 1:38, 49; John 20:16). If we can just get a real glimpse of who HE is, then our understanding of leadership falls into correct alignment with reality. Once we see that Jesus is the real leader here, all other debates, disputes, and time-consuming disagreements disappear.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.

(NIV, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

There is a debate over if Paul is talking about warfare against spirits or against men. The Amplified Bible brings a little more clarity to this verse: “in as much as we refute arguments and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the true knowledge of God”. By the authority of Christ, we can demolish the strongholds, arguments, and attitudes of people who make themselves out to be more important than they really are. The definition of pretention: the unpleasant quality of people who think of themselves as more impressive, successful, or important than they really are, or a desire to do something or a claim to be something that is impressive or important. The act of exalting yourself is actually setting yourself up against the knowledge of God. The act of elevating yourself to the place of importance requires that you be dealt with by spiritual weapons and that these strongholds in your mind are pulled down by others who are correctly aligned to Christ’s leadership.

If you are important, self-important or deservedly important by the worlds authority structure and by the estimation of the world, you will have to be humbled. Your arguments and reasonings and proud and lofty pretentious attitude has raised you up above your brothers. You have gotten up from your prostrate position on the ground and walked up to the second floor of the 1,000 story building. You will have to be brought back down. You are in the way of Christ and his kingdom that is advancing. He will have to go around you leaving you behind, or go over you flattening you back out. If you are arguing and clashing and disagreeing over doctrine there is a good chance that it is something “you” consider important.

Satan is constantly seeking to setup strongholds in the minds of the believers. He is constantly trying to get you to exalt yourself just one inch above what you really are. He is trying to get you to believe the lie that you are actually somebody or that you actually know something. Jesus rebuked the “experts in the law” because they had taken away the key to knowledge and because they were hindering others from entering into the knowledge of God (Matthew 23:9-14; Luke 11:52). If you do not read the verses I insert in parenthesis, you will miss the most important part of the message of this book. This book should take you a year to read and you should be slowly reading it and reflecting on all the verses. If you have read this far and not read the verses in parenthesis, go back to the beginning and take this lesson in leadership seriously. Pay close attention to this next statement: No argument in the kingdom is important enough to being divided over. No man in God’s kingdom is so important that he should cause division.

Once a man or a doctrine divides, they become harmful to God’s kingdom

The body of Christ will start to get a lot more done once they stop clashing over personality, cultural differences and disagreements over doctrine. In the kingdom of God, we are not permitted to disagree, nor do we have time for it. Everyone must simply consider others better than themselves and get along to get along so that the tasks of his kingdom can get done. Those tasks are important, our doctrine is irrelevant in the light of those tasks. Finally, we must agree with one another (1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 4:2) serve one another (Galatians 5:13) and we must recognize Christ’s absolute authority in our lives.

Below are the visual diagrams shown to you in the introduction to help clarify leadership, first worldly then spiritual. This first example is a visual representation of how leadership functions in the authority structure of the world. This model can be found in the secular world  as well as in the Christian church. It is quite common to find it in the Christian church even though it is the worldly authority structure. However, for the purpose of instruction, this diagram (Figure 1.) represents a typical worldly “Christian” leadership model.

Figure 1. Worldly leadership model
Figure 1.

The box represents any entity. The entity can be a local church, ministry, organization, denomination, home group, seminary, social project, or any other situation you might find Christians working together to accomplish a goal. That goal might be something as simple as holding a Sunday school class or a discipleship group. It could be as complex as running a national denomination or a large missionary sending agency. The box is the entity. The largest circle within the box represents the main leader. His (or her) circle is thicker than the others. That thickness represents attributes that gain the person’s leadership by the world’s estimation. The thickness can represent age, experience, seniority, education, the ability to speak in public, or a strong take-charge personality. It could even represent superiority because of family linage, ethnic background, nationality or even skin color. These attributes that make someone a leader could be attributed to oneself or they could be externally attributed to the leader by others. The point is that they are leaders because of those attributed things. The two smaller circles represent other lesser leaders or subordinate leaders. They are also larger than all the other circles and therefore are more significant than the others because of their attributed things. There are about twenty tiny circles that represent people or groups of people within the entity. They are the followers or participants underneath the larger worldly Christian leadership. They are the ones that do most of the serving. The larger circles are being served. Remember that this is a worldly leadership model and can be commonly found inside Christian entities. The three larger circles are more important for one reason or another. They might truly be more important in a worldly authority structure. Remember the “Authority Structure Scale” in chapter six that had a starting point of zero and then went upward from one to ten in the world’s model and went below zero downward from one to ten in the kingdom’s model?  The leadership circles inside the box are above zero and move upward from one to ten on the authority structure scale. The box can represent a small or a large entity. One tiny circle could represent one person or a thousand people depending on the size of the entity.

It is very important that you understand this: The thickness of the circle represents attributes which the world considers important in order to be a leader. However those attributes are something the individual perceives about him or herself. They have little effect in the spiritual kingdom of God because the leader has elevated himself or has been elevated by others to be high in the worldly authority structure. Those who are exalted for whomever or whatever cannot be humbled and therefore have no spiritual impact in the kingdom of God. This is why the church is so divided and full of sin today. The thickness of the circle is also something those following that leader perceive to be real. The thickness of the circle is attributed to the leader by the authority structure of the world and therefore is not spiritual but carnal. The thickness of the circle is not real in the kingdom of God or by Jesus’ estimation (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). The box is representative of worldly Christian leadership structures where the thickness of the leader’s circles is something perceived by the leader himself and the individuals within the box. Nevertheless it is perceived, it is not real. It could be attributed to the leader by a worldly institution, such as a PhD awarded by a university of theology. But it is not real in the true spiritual sense. Only Christ can give out authority and then it is used for kingdom extension, not to lead others. There is only one teacher, one master and one Lord (Matthew 23:10-12). We are all unworthy servants, and the work done by all of us servants is on the same level and worth the same and is work, nothing more. Our work is on the same level as work done by those who would tend animals or plow a field. And at the end of the day, we can only say that we did what we were told to do. If we were leaders that were elevated or exalted by ourselves or others for some earned attribute, our work is credited to us and the glory or credit goes to us and does not go to God (Romans 4:6). These kind of works are to be burned up (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). If we do works through him, as those working in the lower end of the authority structure scale, all credit and glory goes to God because:

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

(Ephesians 2:10)

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good”.

(1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

God prepared your works in advance for you to do. They are not something you are to be considered a leader for doing. They were not yours but God’s. You yourself are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do works, that were pre-prepared in advance for you to do. There is no hierarchical leadership structure because no one is anything apart from Christ. There is no ethnic background or social status that is superior in the kingdom of God. All are leveled on the same plane by the greatness and immenseness of God and the absolute authority of his son Jesus Christ. See also (Romans 1:14; 1 Corinthians 1:24; 10:32, 33; 12:13).

Now I will show you the leadership model in the true spiritual kingdom of God. The diagram below is the reality. The reality is that we are all inside Christ serving. Figure 2. is called “the circle”. The large outer circle is Jesus Christ who is the only head of his body. Those inside the circle are the members of his body. Notice that all the circles are the same size and thickness.

Figure 2. Spiritual Leadership Model
Figure 2.

This second diagram (Figure 2.) represents the body of Christ where all individuals are on the same level but with different equally important roles. If one role is lacking honor, greater honor was given to the role that lacked it so that there is no division in the church body. If one role starts to become greater than the other, division comes in and a box is formed. Therefore all roles have to be on the same level. The circle is not an entity, he is a person, the person is Jesus Christ. There is no other name above his. No one in the circle can make a name for himself. He might perceive himself great, and might even have followers that perceive him as great, but they are mere perceptions because there is no other name in heaven or on earth by which all sinners can be saved except that of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Philippians 2:9 10). We are all equal parts of a body whether we like it or not. The entire book has been written about “the circle” and I pray that you are getting the point. I will give you some examples of the box now, and after I will give you some examples of the circle. As I give you examples of “the box”, the largest circle in the box will be called “leader one”. The two sub-leaders will be called “leader two” and “leader three”. The tiny circles will be called “followers”.

Example of the box, seniority / knowledge / experience based leadership:

In this box, leader number one is old and wise beyond his years. Instead of submitting to the followers, he has gained his position because he is the oldest person in the entity and the most experienced. He feels that he is the right person for the job and is self-confident that his years of involvement give him the correct skills. It matters little how he treats people or if he is a humble person. After all he has been around the longest and he can get the job done. It may actually be true that this person does have more wisdom and experience than the others. But if this person is not careful, he will become over confident and make mistakes. Mistakes will not create much of a problem in a circle scenario because all followers in the circle are following Jesus Christ and have their eyes on God. They are all in submission, forgiving and loving one another deeply from the heart. But in the box, the followers have their eyes fixed on leader number one. So when he makes a mistake, everyone loses confidence. The leader also either loses confidence in himself and his long years on the job or becomes intolerable to the followers. Jesus tells us to not call anyone teacher or even father on this earth. We are to look to him only. Mistakes are going to happen, and if we are trusting in our worldly Christian leadership, when they make mistakes, we lose confidence in their ability and are disappointed. There are different kinds of mistakes, ability mistakes, integrity mistakes and personal treatment mistakes. But the number one leader in the box cannot make them over and over again without losing position. Jesus never loses position. Jesus is the only teacher and leader here and he has perfect ability and integrity. He does not make mistakes. Trust in him. Keep your eyes on him and you will not be led astray or disillusioned. Don’t put your confidence in men or their teaching, leadership or abilities. Stay in the New Testament constantly and have the humility to confront your brother (as one inside the circle) about his pride or self-confidence. If he responds in pride with the fact that he has been there the longest and has more experience, he is not rightly aligned with Jesus Christ. He might stay in the circle of salvation, but will not be in the circle of the body which is getting things done in the true spiritual kingdom of God.

I’ve been teaching these concepts to young disciples who are new in the Lord and in ministry. They feel the freedom to tell me when they think I am wrong and when they think I am acting in pride and believe me, it is not easy. But I do it because if I am not an example of humility and show them that I am equally on the same level, they will never understand. This process is not learned over night. Everyone has to continue to submit to one another, agree with one another and love one another deeply from the heart. It is not easy for the older person who has been around longer and who has more experience. Nor is it easy for the young person. The older person has to swallow his pride and the young person has to learn to be gentle with the older person. In a box, the older person (in this case leader number one) is not accountable to the tiny circles. He is positioned above them and has considered himself superior to them because of age and experience. Take a close look at 1st Corinthians chapter 2. Paul says that he resolved to know nothing while he was among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I don’t think he is over exaggerating. He is trying to teach them how things work in the circle. Here is an apostle who was personally chosen by Christ and had a personal encounter with Christ who is lowering himself so that he can model leadership inside the circle. He is relinquishing his experiences, knowledge and time in the Lord so that he does not cause division in the body, AND so that the followers do not trust in him (by him I mean Paul) but in God. He states that he did not come with eloquence, or superior wisdom. This eloquence, or superior wisdom is what the divisive teachers of the day were propagating. They were dividing the church and gathering followers unto themselves. They were placing themselves above the other roles in a hierarchical leadership. They were taking glory from God and crediting it to their eloquence, and “superior” wisdom. Superior wisdom comes from time on the job or knowing more than the others. It is superior wisdom because the other wisdom is inferior. Think about the term “superior wisdom”. Some people think that there is wisdom that is superior to other wisdom. They think that it’s better. They think, “My wisdom is better or superior to your wisdom.” Human wisdom empties the cross of Christ of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17). There is no superior wisdom, there is only God’s wisdom, and human wisdom. God’s wisdom is so much higher than human wisdom that God considers our wisdom foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19). God’s wisdom comes from God and is given to us as a free gift if we ask for it, receive it humbly, and give God the credit for it (James 1:5). Human wisdom is so low compared to God’s wisdom that it has no ability to extend his true spiritual kingdom. God’s wisdom is so extremely opposite of human wisdom, that it (God’s wisdom) is considered foolishness to those in the world (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Many older leaders who consider themselves the number one, created their position in a box through years of tiny deviations from the truth. Little by little they were led astray by the devil and finally, they feel justified to be number one in the box. After all, they have earned those gray hairs and the all the followers they have worked so hard for. What they don’t know is that this attitude, regardless of how humble they act outwardly, disqualifies them from being in the true circle, the true body of Christ. They might be saved by God’s great grace and mercy but will not be involved in advancing God’s kingdom. They will, however, be advancing their human kingdoms and making a name for themselves. These self-perceived leaders will quarrel with other super-experienced leaders as to which one has superior wisdom or which one is more influential (Matthew 6:5; 23:5). The followers will also quarrel with each other over which super-experienced leader is the more correct one in his teaching, doctrine, theology, and so on. It sometimes takes many years to become a number one leader in a box. Followers have given this person more and more authority because of his long track record. If he doesn’t make many mistakes he can become very powerful and even very wealthy as a public speaker or writer.