Examples of Wordly Christian Leadership – part 20

Example of the box, talent / charisma / personality based leadership:

In this box, the number one leader is a super cool dude. He’s an awesomely legit, tight, real, rad bro. He has all the right words, the right physical voice, and the right facial expressions. He has a marketable personality and a great corporate image. He also may possess great talent and the ability to influence people. He is an extremely good public speaker. He has the right clothes, the right music band, and the right accessories possibly even including a tattoo.

Figure 1. Worldly leadership model

We are talking about leadership styles where they are in their own four walls or an organization. See the previous post – part 19 and the introduction.

These tall, good-looking, well-built take charge people are gathering followers in mass and are possibly unaware that the above-mentioned things create division. They draw people to themselves with these things and this is what makes them self-deluded. They are the number one leader because no one else compares to them. When one gains following by talent charisma or an exuberant personality, self-delusion is prevalent. Self-delusion is where one believes that they are smarter, or better than they really are. If a person puts themselves in a hierarchical leadership position above others because of talent, charisma, or a personality trait that others happen to like, that person thinks more of themselves than they ought. Self-delusion is also when someone believes something about themselves that is not true. If a person is a Christian leader in the world’s authority structure because of things that have no impact in God’s spiritual kingdom, they are believing something that is not true.

When I was a young believer, our local church of about six hundred people was renting a building to meet in. When the number of followers outgrew the building’s capacity, it was decided that we would split up the congregation. Half of the people would meet on the north side of town (poorer) and the other half would meet on the south side of town (richer). But after months of debate, the congregation could not extend the kingdom of God outwardly (further out to the north and south) because the number one leader was just too loved by the group. He was too charismatic. It would have saved the poorer people much time and money paying for extra gasoline to have a congregation on the north side of town. But it was more important to the people that they build a 1,200 seat sanctuary on the south side of town. This took place over thirty years ago. Today the entity (box) has over 20,000 members, 5,000+ in the main congregation, and 15,000+ in several satellite churches. They also have a nationwide television ministry. It all revolves around the number one leader. Actually, he is not a bad guy. The problem is that the actions of the followers and the action of the number one leader (and his subordinate leaders) are causing division and hindering the extension of the kingdom of God. They would argue that their ministry has grown to over 20,000 in membership and that this in itself is kingdom extension. However, had the entity worked in a circle leadership model, they would have multiplied exponentially and today you could not count or measure the impact they would have had. The number 20,000 is extremely small for thirty-plus years of exponential growth in the true spiritual kingdom of God.

This number one leader was the head of my home discipleship group before he became the senior pastor of this movement. In the beginning, his teaching was not that impressive but he just had the right look and the right voice, and the right appeal to the people of our city. Over the years, of course, his teaching has become more refined and so has his appeal. What he has is the perfect mix of a charismatic personality and refined talent and a look and voice that appeals to many people. He is the whole package from a marketing perspective; from his public speaking ability to his way with people, down to his mannerisms and the way he dressed. You would never hear a sermon without his signature self-humanizing joke. I personally know him and love him deeply as a friend and brother. As a new believer, I was greatly impressed with the man and was proud to say that he was my pastor. I was also very proud (too proud) to say that I attended that church. Those are the attitudes that destroy the Christian testimony in the world.

I must mention that I believe that many people have been saved through his ministry however they have come to know Christ in a limited way within a box. Christ is not a thousand story building, the church those saved people go to is the thousand story building in their perception. Knowing what I know now, I would not identify myself with the man or the entity, not because of who they are, but because of who Jesus is. They are a loving church in the world’s authority structure of love and have many good intentions but are still in the box model of leadership following a number one leader. They made that decision many years ago. They could have let the number one man diminish and extended their congregation further outward but they didn’t. What they did create were several other sub-leaders with similar self-important traits. The movement has gotten so big that there is room for several other big personalities. The subleaders also have a specific coolness and a style that attracts a certain sub-crowd. The list of these earthly attributes and preferences is endless. What is cool to one person is not cool to another. So you go to the church and follow the leader you think is the coolest or most legit. Some follow Apollos, some follow Cephas. But those who follow Apollos are definitely better off and way more legit than those following Cephas. Apollos has a larger following so he must be doing something right?

Some say that all this division is healthy diversity and a natural representation of the diversity and complexity of God. This might have been true had the body accomplished Christ’s purpose by now, but we haven’t. The body of Christ is more divided than ever and is not completing his purpose. The purpose of Christ in this material world is to prepare his bride. It is to bring an end to all the sin and loss of souls. He desires and will have representatives of his bride prepared from within every tribe, language, people, and nation standing before him (Revelation 5:9; 7:9). It is our job as members of the body of Christ, to make disciples from within every tribe, language, people, and nation and we have not finished this job. Most Christians will not socialize outside of their congregation. They are divided even from the other congregations in the same movement so I ask you, “is all this healthy and a natural representation of the diversity and complexity of God?”

Basically, if you are drawn to a man or woman in an entity because of his or her preaching style or physical appearance, you are following after a number one leader and not Jesus Christ. You may not know it, but if you think about it, you chose your congregation because of personal preferences. It is those preferences that we are not allowed to have if we are to function as a body. If we have differences it is to show which ones of us are approved by God (1 Corinthians 11:19) and those that are not. So if you are different, and attend your gathering because you have personal likes and dislikes about your gathering over another, you are not approved by God. If you have no preferences (your gathering has no name, and you have no number one leader) and fellowship with any believer in any gathering, you are approved by God. You agree with one another and serve one another in the circle. If your gathering has a name and a number one leader, you are still worldly and only infants in Christ and are in need of maturity according to the New Testament (1 Corinthians 3:1-6). You are divided even though you may not realize it. When you meet other Christians from other entities, do you identify yourself by the church you go to or the pastor’s name and not Jesus Christ? When we propitiate all these things, Jesus Christ is diminished and the local body is emptied of its power to extend the true spiritual kingdom of God. If you are drawn to an entity because of a personal preference, you are immature and are following the box and not the person of Jesus Christ. Some people prefer one hamburger joint over another. Some people prefer one department store over another. Some people prefer one manufacturer of automobiles over another. Some of these may have a superior product but in the end, they are simply preferences. They divide us and make us weaker because we are allowing ourselves to be deluded away from the truth in Christ. We are allowing ourselves to be divided over these preferences because of our selfishness, laziness, or arrogance. It takes our time to research discuss and decide which entity and which number one leader we are going to follow. And once that entity or leader fails us, it will take even more time to decide where to go next. Some will give up altogether on looking for another place and person to follow. They were taught from the beginning to look to human leaders and entities and not to Christ alone so they are set up to be disappointed. Some will just get bored and quit Christ because they really never knew him. They knew a charismatic personality.

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power”.

(NIV, 1 Corinthians 1:17)

Some of the number one leaders are historical figures that were wiser, more experienced, and more charismatic; Luther, Wesley, Calvin, Arminius, and so on. Impressive buildings and magnetic number one leaders have been some of the main causes of division over the centuries. The fact that most Christians can categorize themselves into one of these boxes calls the body of Christ to greater maturity and a transformation that may involve some radical actions.