Leadership Teaching Comes Directly From Christ – part 3

What is true leadership? What makes a leader? You are reading this book to get some answers to these questions. Most Christians will agree that the body of Christ is in a crisis of leadership. The quality and quantity of leaders are rapidly diminishing. The leaders of Christian organizations, denominations, and churches are not discipling future leaders, and the few that they are discipling are disqualified or are disqualifying themselves for ministry. Disciples are not being made by the modern Christian leadership method.

We are making converts and church-building attendants, but disciples are rare. Many leaders feel they will live forever. Sixty-year-old men have not even begun to look for disciples that will continue to extend the kingdom. The Church is in crisis because it has drifted from the simple command to make disciples. He told us to make disciples of Himself, not of ourselves. Making a disciple does not imply that you are going to lead them when you are done. Jesus will do that without your help. All you have to do is teach them what he commanded. Jesus said it clearly and yet we do not read it thoroughly.

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”

(NIV, Matthew 28:18-20).

First of all, Jesus says that all authority has been given to him. He does not then give all authority to his disciples. He does not say or imply that. He tells them to go with the HIS message, building up HIS spiritual body, teaching them what HE commanded. He does not say to lead them. And finally, HE will still be with them.

The problems we face today are not so different from those that Jesus encountered in the leadership of his time. They took leadership styles from the world just as we have and so created their own crisis. As a consequence, we must get busy getting to our crisis of faith. We must deal the death blow to our own leadership and embrace the radical new style of Christ. We must turn away from ourselves and turn to the source (Matthew 7:7). Christians should all agree that Jesus Christ is the source. If you are a leader in the world’s estimation, you might not be a member of the body of Christ in God’s estimation. If you are considered a leader in the world’s estimation, you might not be a member of the kingdom of God who will be doing your part (1 John 2:16, 17). If you become a member of the body as Jesus wants you to be, you will no longer be a leader by the world’s standard. You will be brothers and servants following the one true teacher who is the Christ (Matthew 23:10) and it’s possible that you will not be liked for it (Luke 21:17).

To search for true leadership is similar to looking for gold. You have to look through lots of sand, rocks, and mud to find it, and then you must separate it out and clean it off. Just like everything else in the kingdom of God, there exists a worldly counterfeit. And so, we must seek Jesus exclusively to understand true spiritual leadership. It will require that you clear your mind of what you think you know. Only the Jesus kind of leadership will allow one to be a member of the body in the kingdom of God. You cannot enter in by any other way. You cannot fool Jesus Christ and God the Father. The doors will close on you to help advance their kingdom if you insist on using the world’s models and methods of leadership. You will contaminate true leadership by adding even the simplest catchphrase to Christ’s teaching about being a leader. So forget all your preconceived ideas about leadership and put away all your leadership training manuals. First, we will focus on the Gospels; Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The purest teaching on leadership comes directly from Christ in his Gospels

The following scripture passage is one of the most important that we will be examining. Take it word for word in its pure form, as it is written. Take it literally and personally.

Jesus told his disciples, “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”.

(NIV, Matthew 20:25-28)

Not so with you. You will not be exercising authority over anyone. Jesus says here that if the disciples want to be great in his kingdom as members of his body, they are not to lord over or exercise authority over others. In Christ’s kingdom, the others refer to the other members of his body. The body is within the kingdom. In the world system, being great allows you to lord it over others. It allows you to exercise authority over others. In the world, you are the leader, you make the decisions and you command people to go here and there. By the world’s estimation, the disciples that Jesus chose are considered to be some of the greatest leaders in the history of the Church. But did they act like leaders in the worldly way of leadership? Did they lead the Church the way modern Christians lead the Church today? Did his disciples see themselves as the modern Church sees leaders today? If anyone could have claimed themselves as the great leaders of the First Church, it should have been the original disciples. But we don’t see them doing this. We also do not see the disciples of Christ with the attitudes that we see in today’s Church leaders. We do not see the disciples lording authority over others or exercising authority over others, and they were the first, hand-chosen disciples of Jesus. This is pretty strong evidence that Christ’s model of leadership is very different than what we see and practice today. He discipled his sent ones to act in a radically different way than we do today. He told them explicitly “Not so with you” (Matthew 20:26). He also tells us this exact same thing.

So what is leadership according to Jesus Christ? Jesus is clearly and emphatically teaching his disciples how not to be. He is telling them that they are not to be anything like the leadership of the world. He means what he says. So where did we go so wrong? The leadership model seen today in the Christian body is a worldly one. Start looking more closely at all the scriptures. They will not fail you. This passage in Matthew chapter 20 is just the beginning. We will also look at the disciple’s teaching and actions as well but only when we are finished with the Gospels. This will help filter the apostle’s teaching through the teachings of Jesus Christ.

When looking at Jesus’ disciple’s, one must be careful to analyze their words and actions through those of Jesus himself. If we don’t do this, we will quickly be out of balance. In order to keep a balance, you must consider that Jesus’s teaching is much higher in authority than that of the disciples. Jesus is the son of God. One way to keep a balance is to read five hours of Gospels for every hour you read of a Pauline letter. Think about this for a moment; Christ’s teachings hold the highest authority in our Christian lives. The disciple’s teachings and letters hold the second-highest authority, but they are second. Please, do not misunderstand me. The disciple’s teachings have authority, but they are second. The second is right next to the highest, but it is still second. All the teaching of the disciples must defer to the teaching of Christ. If you can agree with this, Christ’s teachings should then hold the first and highest authority and all other teaching should be considered second. I am not saying that the disciple’s teaching is less true, only that more weight needs to be applied to Christ’s. This can be understood once you get the correct balance. The balance here is the balance: 5 to 1. I teach this to all new believers. They should spend their first two years reading only the Gospels, then they should continue to read more of the Gospels than the other books. Then the proper and correct weight of authority can be established in their hearts. Do you want to be like Jesus or like Paul? If you want to be more like Jesus, read more of Jesus. Faith comes by hearing the word of God and Jesus is the Word and is God.

“This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him”.

(NIV, John 2:11)

The disciples worshiped Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Matthew 28:17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). They were below him. And they stayed below him. We tend to elevate the disciples to the level of Jesus when we teach the New Testament. We give equal weight to their letters and thus teach out of balance. We do this by teaching as much as or more of Paul than we do Christ. Jesus has glory, his disciples do not. The disciple’s teaching is high, don’t get me wrong. But, it is second highest and actually not anyway near Christ’s. We tend to hold the disciple’s letters on the same level as the Gospels and that is where we get out of balance. Our imbalance then swings more toward the worldly view as opposed to Christ’s. An imbalance will alter our understanding of leadership. The disciples were just men. They were appointed apostles by Christ himself but were still mere men. Some will misunderstand me, but this is due to the influence the world system and our enemy have on contemporary Christian teaching.

Don’t get me wrong. The disciple’s teaching is inspired by God and authoritative. But their teaching still has to pass through a higher authority. If you begin to look at men so much that you see them on the same level as the Messiah, you will slowly begin to see yourselves a little closer to the Messiah. It is a heart attitude that we must guard against. Look at it this way; Jesus is a thousand-story building, and all of us, the apostles included, are on the first floor. Also, read much more of Jesus’ words than the disciples and that is how you will get a balance. Pass every word of men, five times through the words of Christ. His teaching will purify all others. One last time, their letters do have authority but they must always be correctly interpreted and filtered through Christ’s teaching and actions. What I mean by filtered, is that the disciple’s teachings need to be thoroughly thought about and analyzed from end to end in the light of Christ’s words. We must always consider Christ’s teaching to be more authoritative because they are. If you have read Jesus five times more than the apostle’s letters, you will be in balance. A balance of 5 to 1 is correct. Read one letter of a disciple for every five times you read a Gospel. Then you will know how to correctly filter or interpret the disciples teaching on Christ. (2 Timothy 2:15)

If you think about it, almost everything Paul and Peter said can be derived from what Jesus said. They added a lot, but the genesis of all New Testament truth comes from the Father revealed through his son Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:25-27; Matthew 16:15-17). Jesus is the goal here. We are to be like him. He is our Lord and the one true teacher. He is our leader and head. The apostle Paul is not our leader. Even the apostle Peter is not our leader. Follow Jesus! The disciples did (John 1:35-37). Here is another radical new thing Jesus said. This is not hyperbole.

“Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ”.

(NIV, Matthew 23:10)

Most Christian leaders want to lead and command the body because it is what they want to do. It gives one self-satisfaction. It is what they have been taught to do. But they have been taught to be worldly. They have been taught to be worldly by others who want self-satisfaction. They have been taught that one should be strong take the initiative and take charge. According to Christ, it is not their place to take charge and push things forward. That’s the way the world has taught them to be leaders. According to Jesus, they should lower themselves as servants. It is not about listening every moment to hear what God is guiding us to do. He has already told us the majority of what we need to do in the scriptures. And this mainly to be a servant. So lower yourself. If you are in a group of people and no one wants to take the initiative, someone will have to speak up. But be careful that you are not the one who jumps in and takes initiative. Let’s examine another passage closely.

“Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves”.

(NIV, Luke 22:25-27)

Jesus is teaching the disciples in the most emphatic way that he is a servant and that his style of leadership is to have the attitude of the one who serves the table. He is telling them that he is THE King, but in a very different way than the world would be king. The kings of gentile people lord over others and those who exercise their worldly authority are benefactors who will get something out of being over you in authority. A common house servant does not get anything out of being a servant. And he certainly is not your authority. Servants do not have authority! Servants do not tell you what to do. Servants do not take the initiative. They are commanded what to do. Servants do not take charge. They are lower than the one who sits at the table. So, according to Jesus we also are to be like Jesus as one who is serving those at the table. Jesus was also told what to do. He was told what to do by the Father (John 5:17-19).

Servants are never told that they could be at the table one day being attended by servants. Nor do they have aspirations of being served one day. Servants are not told that the world is theirs for their taking. Servants are not instructed at childhood that if they are determined and work hard, they can be great people someday. Servants, especially common house servants, are simply “those who serve” as one plowing a field or as one tending flocks. Plowing fields is some of the hardest work one can do. And if you are a servant who is ordered to plow the fields it is more difficult. You are plowing a field so that someone else can gain by selling the crop. You have no hope of growing a business or harvesting a record crop. You plow the field, walking behind the oxen who are defecating in front of your footsteps. You stop occasionally to lift a heavy rock out of the dirt. Those who tend flocks spend all day watching over someone else’s animals with no hope of having their own herd. Servants who tend flocks are not near anyone all day. They are far from society and schools in pastures where there is no possibility to grow in social status or knowledge.

Those who are sitting at the table benefit from the servants who plowed their fields and tended their flocks all day. Servants attend to those who are sitting at the table. They take orders from them. Who is greater according to Jesus? Jesus completely changes the way leadership is done by making the greater one the one who is serving the table. Jesus is emphatically teaching them that the greater one is the one serving the table. This is the total opposite of what the world teaches. Jesus is also teaching them that he is among them as one who serves. Embarrassingly, even at the last supper, the disciples are arguing again about who would be the greatest among them (John Chapter 13). They are disputing who would be higher in authority once Jesus became King or once he was gone. Jesus has to take another opportunity to be set them straight that they will be servants just as he is their servant.

Appointment does not equal authority to lead

This one simple fact should change the way we understand leadership. Think about this for a moment. The most important thing Jesus could have done was to go to the cross and pay for the sins of mankind. This he did. The second most important thing was to find people to spread THE Message that he went to the cross to pay for the sins of mankind. His disciples were appointed for this principle reason. They were discipled to be spreaders of the message, not leaders in charge or command of the other members of the body of Christ who would do the menial tasks. They were “apostles” sent out and away from the other members carrying the message and extending the kingdom outwardly. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and Jesus Christ does the saving, we are just the bearers of this message who are to teach everything he has commanded.