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Leaders who Control or Leaders who are Learners

As I have said many times in this blog, there are all kinds of views on leadership. You can find thousands of books on the topic and they all have something to say. However, not all books on leadership are created equal. Some leadership gurus have made a name for themselves in this area such as John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, Robert Clinton, Bill Hybels, and many more. 

Leadership manuals that are published for corporate America do not always translate into church leadership. I do believe that principles of good business practice can be incorporated into church practice, but it is not the basis for leadership in general. Let me explain.

I think the problems we have seen in church leaders in recent years is because we have placed too much attention on them as leaders and not enough attention on how a leader is motivated to lead. Jesus told us there is really only one head of the Church, which is him, while the teacher/guide of the Church is the Holy Spirit. It is within the leadership of the Holy Spirit that we find our gifts as the Apostle Paul outlines in
Ephesians 4:11-12. 

  • Apostles
  • Prophets
  • Evangelist
  • Pastor 
  • Teacher

These are the gifts of leadership that assist the teaching of the Holy Spirit to believers. These gifts do not promote authority, they promote a servant leadership role to equip, build, bring into unity of faith, to know in knowledge the Son of God, in maturity, and to ultimately have the character of Jesus Christ.  

Too often, pastors function in all these leadership gifts in the church and play the key role in leadership. Or, let’s just say pastors are to play the key leadership role at the expense of all the others. Again, many pastors are not equipped to function in some of these other gifts so therefore two things happen in the church:

1. Narcissism becomes a reality when one gift is placed above all others and sometimes at the exclusion of all others. This is part of the reason we have too many priests falling into sin, and why people like Bill Hybels who was found guilty of sexual indiscretions was allowed to keep his job and title at Willow Creek. If prophets of correction were allowed to have leadership roles in the church, it might have eliminated the problem early on.  I think our leadership system in the church is flawed by not finding ways for all the leadership gifts to be exercised in the local church. 

2. Pastors are to manage the spiritual growth in a congregation, so he/she oversees how to manage this with all the gifts that are afforded to a congregation. Too often the pastor has to do all the leadership roles because that what he/she was hired to do. The pastor is an employee of the church, subsequently then he/she can be subjected to the dictates of a job description that has him/her doing things that may not be in his/her wheelhouse. I was told as a pastor I could not preach certain themes because it would cause people to leave. I believe that is where a lot of pastors find themselves today. Without the help of the gifts of the prophet and the teacher in a church, the pastor has to go it alone on delicate issues of moral issues and cultural exposure. 

All the gifts mentioned above are to be learner oriented. No one comes to a complete revelation on any theme; we are told in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that we see only through a darkened glass. So being a life long learner in following the Holy Spirit and studying the Word of God is the key to maintaining as clear a message that God has ordained for His church. 

1 Corinthians 13:12 “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

Leaders who operate out of an authority-based leadership will always be flawed in how they lead, and will want to control the church through his/her position. A learner-based leadership will always incorporate a dependence on God for direction, and on other gifts to supplement the leadership need. 

I am learning to ask more questions about the leadership models in the church based upon what you read from me today. 

If the plurality of leadership concept that Peter mentions in 1 Peter 5:1-3is valid, then I think it would serve our churches well to re-think how we use leaders to guide and equip the church. 

"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."

Structuring the Church after the leadership models Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:11-12 makes more sense toward developing a more efficient way to lead and use more of the gifts God gave to the church, rather than having everything rest on the shoulders of only one of those gifts. 

Keeping it honest and truthful…K 

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