The Only Leader Here Is Jesus – part 2

There are a few things you need to understand. 1.) Jesus was not interested in establishing an earthly kingdom, but a spiritual one (John 18:36) that he could continue to lead after his departure from the earth. 2.) He had no intention of passing his leadership over to mortal men. He would remain the head, the King of the Jews, and the King kings. 3.) He needed to prepare his disciples to effectively extend his message as far as possible (Luke 9:60). This did not require that they govern, guide, or lead the body. 4.) Those three concepts interlinked together would require Jesus to introduce a radically different style of leadership.

This radically different style of leadership is what we are addressing in this book. The disciples would have a very hard time understanding this new style of leadership. It was something that had never been seen before. Take a few minutes to read the passage below and all the verses around it (John 13:1-20)

“Do you understand what I have done for you?”

(NIV, John 13:12)

They had a hard time understanding that his kingdom would not be on this earth. They also had a hard time understanding that Jesus did not require subordinate leadership (lesser leaders under him) but rather needed them to submit to him and serve him. Part of submitting to him would be that they submit to and serve one another (Ephesians 5:21). Pay close attention: Doing so (submitting to Him and one another) would facilitate the rapid and efficient spread of his message. There is a direct correlation between, the submission to his high authority and to one another, with the effective extension of his message as far as possible. This radically different style of leadership was needed to accomplish the extension of his kingdom to the ends of the earth. If the apostles had begun to lead each other or others, they would have hindered the extension of the Gospel. Jesus had to lead the whole thing.

Paul quotes the book of Isiah chapter 49 verse 6 saying, “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (NIV, Acts 13:47). Paul refers to Jesus when he says “the Lord”. There is not much more the Lord Jesus needed from his body on the earth. He needed them to take the message as far and wide as possible. He did not need one of the apostles to take his place. The word apóstolos (απόστολος) just means one sent. He did not need them to lead and govern the other believers. He himself would do that part. He sent them to carry the message. He needed them to go, not lead. The other ministry gifts, as we call them, mean what they mean, there is no deep secret about them. They are roles given to interdependent members of a body that work together to “build itself up”.

This radically new leadership style Jesus introduces does allow for one supreme ruler (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) but it has to be him and no others below him. It is quite simply not necessary for anyone else to do any leading. Jesus is very capable of doing it all himself. He does not need our help. If you are shocked at what I have just written, the disciples were also. Never before in history had a leadership style like this existed. All other leadership models known to man were hierarchical. His leadership model was not hierarchical (below the Trinity) because there would not exist any secondary leaders, nor would anyone take his place once he ascended. They all were to be brothers only (Matthew 23:8-12). The fact that he would not be replaced affirms that no subordinate leaders would appear. If he were replaced, it would require that his successor would also be replaced and so on. Some believe that Peter took Jesus’ place. This unbiblical error is still prevalent in Christendom. The Holy Spirit would assign roles that were needed for the extension of his spiritual kingdom, but no authority would be given to them to lead each other or others. These roles are still assigned today but they are no more important or have no more authority over one another. All of the different roles would be equal in importance (1 Corinthians 12:24) and the authority is with Christ. We are to consider others better than ourselves. We are to submit to one another, serve one another, love one another deeply, and allow Christ to first serve us and lay his life down for us. This gives him the right to have supreme authority to lead and guide us. He is the ultimate authority (Isaiah 45:18) and there is no other. After his ascension, Jesus Christ continued to lead his disciples being seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven through the Spirit. While he was on the earth, Jesus and Jesus alone led his disciples. There is no doubt about this. The fact that he is in heaven does not change his position to lead his body. He is the King of kings and is now on the throne of leadership and authority.

Jesus’s leadership model doesn’t make much sense to our natural minds. It goes against everything we have been taught. It goes against all our human experiences. It rubs against our carnal desires to be followed, admired and praised for knowing more than others around us. It goes against our desires for exercising our human authority on others around us. Jesus’s model is not an authoritarian model. It is not a participative model nor a delegative model. It is not democratic, nor is it monocratic. The people did not choose him as their leader, God did. And because God the father’s son lowers himself below all people by serving them, he is bringing a radically different way of leadership that is contradictory to all worldly leadership. It must have been extremely frustrating for the disciples that the Messiah was not leading like they had been taught. In the same way Jesus’s disciples struggled, most of us will too. Take heart, he is in control. It is actually quite liberating once you get used to it.

The only leader here is Jesus

There is only one leader here and it is not you. We are all part of the same spiritual body, not a team. I won’t use the word team in this book as it can carry a negative connotation in our minds. The term used in the New Testament is body. A body is a living spiritual being with interdependent parts. We will not fully understand it with our natural minds. The apostles have tried to help us understand it. Body is also one of the more important things that the Church needs to understand. Body and leadership are interconnected. We need a divine revelation from God that we are all interconnected with each other and connected to him. Since body is the word used in the New Testament it’s what we will use. The word team is not used so we should not use it. There is a reason for this. Also, teams compete, body members do not compete. We are all one body with one head and many parts. It is important to understand that we are one body worldwide (Ephesians 4:4-6). It is also important to understand that there is one head worldwide, and that head is Christ. We are all one worldwide body. We literally become part of one spiritual body when we are born again. When one part suffers, the whole body suffers (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Most Christians do not comprehend that we are a body and are truly one in Christ. One reason is that we bring all our preconceived ideas of leadership along as we read the New Testament. When we read, we don’t think about what Jesus or the disciples are trying to tell us. We are not thinking about what the author was trying to communicate to us. We read the scripture with colored glasses on. We also read as though it has no relevance for us today. We are not even aware of it most of the time, but we read it through our present experience of what we see in worldly Church leadership. We have baggage. We skip over verses as though they have no meaning or as if they were nice religious things that Jesus and the apostles said. We think that the teachings of Christ are nice, but they are not real to us. They have no impact. All this must change. You need to get serious about reading the Bible. When you read the Bible, especially the Gospels, you need to forget about all that you know and see around you. Look to Jesus. He knows what he is doing. His teaching was meant to stand the test of time. He has something to say to you. His words are important for you personally, right now. He did not say things lightly. Everything he said and did was for the purpose of saving mankind from their sins and then, teaching those saved to spread the message about him. The Bible has chapter numbers and verse numbers because every sentence is important. They are the words of life (John 6:68). They have the power to save your soul (2 Timothy 3:15) You need to understand them and let them change you (Hebrews 4:12).

The world’s ways of leading people and teams are not at all like Christ’s ways of leading his spiritual body, the Church. The world relies on mere men and women for leadership and guidance. They have tried very hard to figure out how to be successful with imperfect human beings as leaders, and the results are imperfect. Not only are they imperfect, but they also are not usually beneficial to the lesser individuals on the team. Various worldly styles of leadership have been broken down into segments or levels. These worldly models of leadership we mention below are those that you will need to completely remove from your mind when trying to understand Christ’s leadership. How do you do this? Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal the word of God to you. Read the scriptures slowly and think about them. Do not read anything into them or presume anything of them. Read them as they are and do not add to them. Ask yourself, “What is the author trying to say to me”? Remove any understanding you have about the subject when reading the scriptures. Read large portions of scripture in one setting and try to grasp what is being said in the context of surrounding verses and chapters.

There are various worldly styles of leadership that have shaped our understanding of true leadership. The authoritarian (autocratic) leadership style; is when a leader dictates policies and procedures, decides what goals are to be achieved, and directs and controls all activities without any meaningful participation by the subordinates or sub-leaders. The number one leader is the head. This leader has full control of the team leaving low autonomy within the group. “My way or the highway.” Jesus’ leadership does not dictate, you can obey or not, the choice is yours.  The democratic leadership style is a very open and shared style of running a team. Ideas move freely amongst the group and are discussed openly. Everyone is given a seat at the table, and discussion is relatively free-flowing. Jesus sets at the head of the table and does command those who chose to sit with him. Those who love him, obey his commands. Those who don’t, do not obey.  Bureaucratic leadership is based upon fixed official duties under a hierarchy of authority, applying a system of rules for management and decision-making. This style of leadership can be advantageous in highly regulated lines of business, and it can be an efficient management style that does not require much creativity or innovation from people. The body of Christ in the world is a living being depending on a head for daily guidance. There are only commands to love which sums up the entire law of the old covenant (Matthew 7:12). Transactional leadership, also known as managerial leadership, focuses on the role of supervision, organization, and group performance; transactional leadership is a style of leadership in which the leader, who is in charge, promotes compliance of his followers through both rewards and punishments. Jesus does not promote compliance, his divinity motivates those who know him to serve him and each other. Transformational leadership is a style of leadership where the number one leader collaborates with employees or team members to identify the needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing the change in tandem with committed members (sub-leaders) of the group. Jesus does not collaborate with us on decision-making. He has already made the decision about what needs to be done; make disciples of all nations. Laissez-faire leadership allows its followers to have complete freedom to make decisions concerning the completion of their work. It allows followers a high degree of autonomy and self-rule, while at the same time offering guidance and support when requested. But it still lays out a task to be accomplished. The fact that a task exists requires its accomplishment. But, even at Google Inc. you still have to show up to work every day if you want to keep your job. Jesus doesn’t allow room for self-rule. This is why we become part of a spiritual body so that the head can lead.

The Jesus style of leadership doesn’t fit anywhere within these worldly models. It doesn’t fit because it’s not of this world. The leader in the Jesus model is also no longer of this world. He is the one true leader who laid it all down and sacrificed his life through terrible suffering for his followers (Hebrews 2:9-13). Then, and because of his suffering and sacrifice, and through the work and power of his resurrection, he was exalted and seated in the heavens by the side of the supreme leader who is God the Father and creator of the Universe. Jesus guides his followers as their king (Hebrews 7:25-28). Human beings that are born again and full of the Holy Spirit now follow him. But they have a daily choice to follow him or not. They will follow if they love him and appreciate his sacrifice (John 14:15). Though they are not perfect, his followers will obey his commands. Commands are commanded. They are not asked of us, they are commanded of us. Kings have the right to command. If we do not follow his commands, we do not fully comprehend who he is, nor do we comprehend his sacrifice and the eternal life he offers us. Ultimately, Jesus is God (1 John 5:3) and he has the right to command us, even if we don’t realize it. We don’t hear the words “command” and “obey” much these days, but they are very common in the New Testament. It would do you good to start including one New Testament words into your vocabulary. You should start replacing some terms you use as well. Use the word “body” instead of “team”. Use the word “servant” instead of “leader”. When you say “I am your leader,” it carries a very different attitude than when you say “I am your servant.” Jesus says that he is both but that he is our only teacher and lord. This boggles the minds of people who are not born again and not full of the Holy Spirit. We are all servants following the commands of a servant king. You should ponder this concept while reading the New Testament. Jesus tells us that we are all brothers. Look very carefully at the verse below, and don’t think about any worldly leadership styles for a moment.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant.”

(NIV, Matthew 23:8-11)

Does this verse mean what it means, or is it just another nice thing Jesus said? My wife and I are servants of Christ at a missionary training center. The students refer to the person teaching as “teacher” just as we did in grade school. They do it as a way to show respect. This doesn’t sit well with me. I need to encourage them to obey Christ and change this practice because we are all brothers and sisters and our head, Christ, told us to not call anyone a teacher in this world. He is the only teacher here. I will have to change our worldly practice because I now have a more mature view of who my head is. I have more revelation about Jesus and I take him at his word. I take his words for what they mean. Little by little, we drift from the truth. On a long journey, you must be careful not to get off course even a little, or you might not arrive at your destination. Once you get a deeper revelation about who it is you are dealing with, you will pay closer attention to the New Testament teaching on leadership. Obedience brings blessing. More obedience brings more blessing. Jesus Christ is God and God is the creator of the universe and he is telling us that we are all brothers. He is the Master, he is the Father and he (Jesus) is the teacher, the Christ.

Do we really know who we are dealing with?

So who is our Master? Who is our teacher? Who is the Christ? Do you really know who you are dealing with? We need to know who we are dealing with before we begin to understand leadership. Jesus is The Master, The Teacher, and The Christ. He is the one sent forth by the Father. He is THE Messiah. Messiah, literally means, “anointed one”. In the Hebrew language, a messiah is a king or high priest anointed with holy anointing oil (Matthew 26:3; Luke 3:2; John 18:24). But THE Messiah is physically descended of King David, born of the Holy Spirit without sin, and is to be the liberator of all mankind from the penalty and the power of sin over their lives granting them forgiveness and eternal life. The Hebrew word messiah translates into Greek as Khristós (Χριστός) which is where the word Christ comes from (Matthew 16:16).

It is hard for us to comprehend that THE Messiah would lower himself below us in order to serve us. It is hard for those who understand leadership through a worldly mentality that he would do this. When someone who is so much higher than we are, lowers himself below us to serve us, we encounter an entirely new form of leadership. Peter had the hardest time of all the disciples (John 13:8) understanding this. It is this form of leadership that is spiritual and cannot be completely understood by our finite minds. It takes faith to walk in it and it requires help from the Holy Spirit. It is as difficult to understand as the concept “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) which also must be done in faith. Read through all the scripture verses in the following section. They will help you gain more revelation of how high and exalted Christ Jesus is. They will help you comprehend and allow more of his leadership in your life.

Jesus is not just a messiah, he is THE Messiah. He is THE King of kings and THE Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16). He is THE King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-2; Matthew 27:37). He is THE first and last, THE Alpha and Omega (Revelation 22:13). He is THE Word of God (John 1:1). He is THE last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). He is THE bright Morning Star. (Revelation 22:16 See also 2 Peter 1:19). He is THE true light (John 1:3-9). He is THE Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5). He is THE Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4). He is THE bridegroom (John 3:29). He is THE heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2). He is THE head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22-23). He is THE Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4 See also Matthew 2:6; Micah 5:2; John 10:11; 1 Peter 2:25; Hebrews 13:20). He is THE Prince (Acts 5:31). He is THE Rabbi (John 1:38, 49; John 20:16). He is THE Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). He is THE Master (Matthew 23:8; John 13:15). He is THE deliverer and redeemer (Romans 11:26; Isaiah 59:20). He is THE author and perfecter of salvation (Hebrews 2:10). He is THE high priest (Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 6:20). Jesus Christ is THE Son of God THE Father (John 3:35). THE Father affirms Jesus Christ is his Son (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17). Jesus Christ affirms that he is THE son of God (John 10:36; Luke 22:70; Matthew 26:63-64; Mark 14:61-62; John 19:7; Revelation 2:18).

We are dealing with a radically new form of leadership because we are dealing with THE son of God. Jesus, who is the Christ (Khristós), is bringing this new model onto the scene. It is new because there has never been someone like HIM who arrives on the scene before. If you begin to look more closely at the Gospels, you will see that Jesus is trying to radically change the disciple’s mentality on leadership (Matthew 20:27). It is apparent that his disciples did not realize what he was doing (Mathew 20:24). But Jesus eventually helps them. In the following posts, I point you in the direction of Jesus’s teaching on leadership. I include myself in the next sentence. If you and I can begin to understand and apply in our lives what Jesus said, we will no longer be infants and we will grow up into him, who is the head, that is Christ. And because of it, will extend his kingdom and build his body. Now, let’s embark on a 21st-century search for the New Testament model.