The Reality of Roles in Leadership – part 14

If you have to use the word “leader”, you could define leadership in this way: All members of the body are leaders. We are all pointing each other to the head Jesus Christ. We are all doing what needs to be done with or without each other. We are all leading each other to follow the head. I submit to Christ and by doing so submit to you and thus lead you because I am being led by Christ.

When you, another member, need encouragement, I lead you to Christ the encourager. When you, another member of the body are hurt, I lead you to Christ the healer. When you or another member of the body are in sin, I lead you to Christ, the forgiver, and cleanser of your sin. I am constantly leading you to him, therefore I am a leader. I lead you to Christ. I do this because I too am constantly being led. I am a leader because I am part of the one true body that has only one head and ultimate leader Jesus Christ. You too are a leader because you as another member of the body are leading me to Christ. My leadership is no more important than yours, it is just as necessary as yours. My leadership does not mean at all that I have authority over you. It simply means that I am being a correctly functioning member of one body helping you remember that you too are connected to the one head. I consider you more important than myself and thus I lead you to Christ, not to myself. I frequently tell those around me that they better be looking to Christ and not me. This does not mean that I should not be an example. My example should be showing that I am connected to the head. At the end of the day, I will not always be perfect and this is why we should always look to Christ and not men.

If you look at the lives of people from a worldly perspective, you will see important people accomplishing big ministry tasks. If you look at the lives of people from a spiritual perspective, you will see many people accomplishing one purpose being led by one head Jesus Christ. It depends on the perspective you have. Do you look at leadership from a worldly point of view or from the point of view of everyone in one body having one head? The difference lies in the attitude of the heart as you look at leadership. Does your ministry have a name, Apollos Ministries International, or Cephas Biblical Church? The attitude of the heart attitude will make the leg that lifts seem more important than the foot that pushes. In the end, the leg will be divided from the foot and you will have two independent individual members of the body struggling over control and authority and who has correct doctrine. You won’t be walking anywhere, especially to the unreached people groups in Tibet. You will have two body parts that were originally members of one body now divided and working independently from one another. As a result, others will now have to choose which one they think has more authority or more truth? Jesus must hold all authority to lead because he will never divide us. He will never divide his own body. Stop and think about this for a minute.

He gives authority to do certain things for the kingdom’s extension, such as healing the sick and casting out demons, but he does not give authority to lead. He is perfectly capable of doing that himself.  If Apollos Ministries International, gets you to transfer from Cephas Biblical Church, they have ceased being part of Christ’s body because the true body has only one head. Apollos and Cephas are nothing, only servants who were told what to do. Apollos who waters and Cephas who plants are nothing, only God who causes things to grow (1 Corinthians 3:7). We are so immersed in the present system of leadership that we think it’s valid. But the fact is that body is actually severely divided and working independently of the other members. One is full of feet and the other is full of legs and Tibet remains unreached. We try to imitate being true members of one body, but this is still only independent collaboration at best. Additionally, when we operate as the world does, we lose his power to extend the kingdom, and just as important, we lose our credibility that our messiah is the only way.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

1 Corinthians 1:17

The baptism ritual has been one of the greatest dividing points of the body of Christ over the last two-thousand years. The enemy has been very astute in dividing the body over these kinds of things, keeping the Church from completing her mission.

A disconnect from the true head will cause you to lose credibility because you are representing a different head

Now, we will take an in-depth look at the different roles in the body of Christ that are mentioned in the New Testament. As we go forward, it is important to see that whenever these roles are mentioned the writers first explain our true reality in God’s kingdom. The writers of the New Testament take time to bring us down to reality before they tell us about the role. They do this on purpose so that we will not elevate any role higher than the other. They take special care so that the body will not be divided. In today’s worldly Christian leadership, roles are higher than the body. In the New Testament teaching, the roles are lower serving the other members so that division does not come. I will highlight the following paragraphs with the word reality, and then the word roles italicized.

First Example – Romans 12

Reality: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us”.

Roles: “If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (NIV, Romans 12:3-8)

Second Example – 1 Corinthians 12

Reality: “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 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.”

Roles: “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.”

Reality: “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

Roles: “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.”

Reality: “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (All the above from NIV, 1 Corinthians 12:1-30)

Read the 13th chapter. Paul goes on to say that if we operate in these roles and do not have love, we are nothing. Love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, etc., etc. These are character traits of a leader who understands that his or her role is nothing more than another equal part of the entire body where that role is needed to move the whole body forward. Read chapter 14. Follow the way of love, and then desire these spiritual gifts. A gift is not earned nor given because we have a special ability or character trait. It is given to all freely and without preference.

Third Example – Ephesians 4

Reality: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called– one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)”

Roles: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

Reality: “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 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, Ephesians 4:1-16).

Fourth Example – 1 Peter 4

Reality: “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Roles: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (NIV, 1 Peter 4:1-11).

Serving in the strength God provides is done by faith and the praise goes to the Father through Jesus Christ. Having faith that we are connected to the body and are one body and that all strength comes from God is what he is looking for among the believers.

Fifth Example – Hebrews 2

Reality: “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.”

Roles: “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (NIV, Hebrews 2:1-4). Also read: Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 14:1-25; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Timothy 3:8-10 and 1 Peter 5:1-3.

The writers of the New Testament refer to these roles as gifts. A gift is given and is not earned. It is not deserved, it is not merited or achieved by seniority; it’s a gift. A gift is a gift. If you understand that you received a gift in order to function a certain way in the body of Christ, then you will not lord it over others. You will not use your gift to elevate yourself higher than others. You will not be proud and you will not boast. You will not use your gift for personal gain or ambition. You will not use your gift for worldly outcomes or cruelty and evil. Your gift is only for the extension of his kingdom and to make disciples who will also extend his kingdom. All roles or gifts are for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. Building up the body means, more souls and those souls maturing as a result. God loves the people in the world so much that he sent his only son so that those who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). The extension is getting out where the Gospel has not been preached (Romans 15:20) to bring those lost souls into the body as well.

Roles are gifts for the extension of his kingdom, not to have authority over another

Roles are given and are joined and held together by every supporting ligament, that grow and build up the body of Christ in love, as each part does it’s work. (Ephesians 4:16) Here is a list of roles, or gifts mentioned in the New Testament. Even the simple member has its basic function.

  1. The saints, God’s people, members of the body
  2. Prophesying (possibly not the same as prophet)
  3. Serving, or ministry in some versions of the Bible
  4. Teaching
  5. Encouraging, or exhortation in some versions
  6. Contributing or giving, generosity
  7. Leadership – in Greek, proistamenos (προϊστάμενος) only one occurrence meaning office or position.
  8. Showing mercy or compassion
  9. Message of wisdom
  10. Message of knowledge
  11. Faith
  12. Gifts of healing
  13. Miraculous powers or miracles
  14. Prophecy
  15. Distinguishing between spirits
  16. Speaking in different kinds of tongues
  17. Interpretation of tongues
  18. God has appointed first of all apostles
  19. Second prophets
  20. Third teachers
  21. Evangelists
  22. Pastors
  23. Then workers of miracles
  24. Those able to help others
  25. Those with gifts of administration
  26. Hospitality
  27. Administering grace
  28. Speaking
  29. Signs
  30. Wonders
  31. Gifts of the Holy Spirit
  32. Ministry of reconciliation
  33. Elders – or bishops in some versions
  34. Deacons
  35. Shepherds
  36. Overseers

I did not put these in order. Paul does tell us that God appointed the apostles first, but according to all the reality around this scripture passage, they are not more important, nor do they have more authority than other roles or gifts do. They are not special. The overall context of the New Testament does not confirm that apostles have any special place above the rest of the body. If they are greater, it is because they are lower. If you want to be great become the servant. They are greater because they are the slaves of all. After this world ends Christ’s first apostles do have special places in heaven (Matthew 19:28). But there is much scripture supporting that the apostles are actually lower than all the other roles serving the body. They support all the other roles. They are slaves to all the others, doing the most difficult work in kingdom extension (1 Corinthians 4:9-15). Because they are lower does mean that they are greater in the kingdom’s perspective. The greatest among you will be your servant (Matthew 23:11). Our modern perception of the role of apostle is far removed from that of the New Testaments.

There are probably a hundred books that will tell you what an apostle is and what he does, and they probably give a hundred different answers. You could read the New Testament looking for the answer, but if you do, you won’t find much. They were simple men out there extending the kingdom of God further out into the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). They were making disciples and using gifts such as healing, miracles, signs, and wonders. There are other little details you could gather from what is said here and there. But mainly they were out there carrying the message and backing it up with evidence. Signs, wonders, and miracles are the gifts that are needed to back up the message you are preaching and teaching. They show the people that Jesus is real and the Good News about him is true (Mark 16:20).