Who’s on the throne of the local Church- the princes of profit, or the prophetic Serving King?
For more than the first half of the last century the overwhelming challenge for the church came from those Bible and Seminary teachers who championed a liberal perspective of the Scriptures. Truths such as the virgin birth of Christ and the infallibility of the Scriptures were not only questioned but often times derided and rejected as foolish by the very people who should have been championing God’s supernatural power interacting with our natural limitations. That battle has largely been won by those who believe the Bible as being completely true and completely inspired by the word of God. It is interesting that certain groups such as some Anglicans in the UK and some Episcopalians in the US who have theologically embraced liberal moral standards due to a liberal interpretation of the Scriptures have themselves been recently derided and rejected by their African counterparts within their respective denominations.
This battle is well addressed by Pastor Mark Hoffman in his book “On Earth, as it is in Heaven”. One particular chapter is aptly titled “the battle for the soul of the church”. In the final section for Pastors and leaders Mark concludes with the argument that the huge battle we currently face is the tension between churches and leaders who are Kingdom led and inspired versus those who are church growth led and inspired. The former group places a much higher priority and dependency on prayer, worship, and God’s voice, and power where as the latter group is more focused on prevailing methodology based on what ‘seems to be working’ in today’s culture. No matter how learned we may be it seems that each leader needs a personal revelation that they cannot face today’s giants while wearing another king’s armor.
Mark Hoffman describes the battle for the soul of the church and the mindset of many leaders today quite powerfully. What I would like to briefly address is the battle for the heart of many leaders today. It is the heart that leads to the mindset, which, in turn, leads to the values and practices of the church.
It has been the rage for some 15 years now for church leaders throughout the western world nations to study and try to adapt and adopt the CEO model of leadership from the corporate world. The high flying, authoritative, outspoken, visionary, leader adept at casting vision, brokering deals, and raising the profit margin, while being dismissive of support people as being inferior and expendable has some how become the hero of many church leaders today. The successful CEO of the world is focused on profit margins of mere numbers. Where as the servant/leader model of heaven is focused on prophet margins of the healing, destiny, and calling on those around them.
I, for one, have often noticed that many leaders of growing fruitful churches are more visionary minded than the classic pastorally minded leader who simply desires to encourage and assist people one by one. As far as that goes it is all fine and well. A true apostolic leader should be a leader of vision and adept and communicating that God given vision. However, where a line seems to have been crossed, in a huge way, is the leaving behind of ‘the servant of all’ model Jesus exemplified. Instead, an embracing of a hierarchal corporate model which values numerical results at the cost of a heart value of one’s team and core group.
Jesus was, and is, the leader, who was not simply concerned about the bottom line of numbers, but was willing to leave behind the ninety-nine in search of the one lost sheep. Even more telling was the ways of Jesus with people as individuals and with His ‘leadership team’- the twelve disciples. We never read of Jesus being dismissive and/or using anger towards His disciples. For those who would say ‘what about when He rebuked Peter’ (Matthew 16.23) I would answer He was not speaking to Peter, but rather to a demonic entity. In deed, when Jesus addressed Peter’s denial of Jesus, in John 22, Jesus was both affirming and encouraging. Jesus never treated people, including His ‘staff’ with less than a servant/leaders heart. He always spoke the truth in love!
The good man speaks out of the treasure within, not the success without!
The key to moving in authority (which I believe God does call pastors/elders to do) while demonstrating humility (the servant’s heart of Jesus) is to be found in two vital types of relationships and perspectives. First of all Jesus always lived, led, and ministered out of a heart foundation of knowing His self worth was not based on a ‘bottom line profit margin’ bur rather simply based in who He was- the beloved of the Father. At His greatest hour of need of encouragement from His disciples Jesus stripped Himself to the role of a lowly servant and washed the feet of the twelve. That key is illustrated in John 13.3: Jesus knew where He had come from (the kind heart of the Father), where He was going to (back to the Father’s side and worshipped by the angels), and lastly, that the Father had given all things to Him. Jesus modeled and served constantly out of the heart knowledge that He was the Son of God almighty! That heart knowledge allowed Jesus to face extreme stress levels but still give out love and encouragement even in His hour(s) of need.
The second key was His constant perspective of people, including the twelve. He always saw people, including sinners, as works of the Father in progress. In one of His initial meetings with the future Cephas (rock) Jesus acknowledged that Peter’s current name (Simon) reflected his reed-like easily swayed nature. Jesus knew of Peter’s future failures, but rather than dismissing Him prophetically called and loved Him into his apostolic destiny. He knew that when He was done with Peter, Peter would reflect Him- the rock of salvation! In the same vein, the woman called a sinner (a prostitute until quite recently) was most welcome to minister to Jesus. Like wise there was no condemnation from Him to the woman caught in adultery. His correction to her was without condemnation!
The second book I wrote was called “Walking Out of Spiritual Abuse”. It has since then been republished as “Toxic Churches”. I wrote it during 1993-94 due to the fact that I had seen so many good Christians taken advantage over by people in leadership. Those leaders, while well meaning, had bought into a leadership philosophy in vogue at that time in many streams. Essentially, that particular philosophy of ministry espoused exercising almost complete control over the lives within one’s ministry. What those leaders failed to realize was that Jesus had given His life so that everyday Christians could, indeed, be the sons who were led by the Spirit (Romans 8.14). That particular heavy-handed controlling model of leadership has largely been dismissed from the contemporary church seen.
That said, the problem of senior church leaders abusing core people and staff has actually increased over the last 10 years. As there has been an increased demand for senior leaders to have ‘mega churches’ there has equivalently come an increased stress level on their hearts. Those leaders whose identities, unlike Jesus’, are rooted in outward success and the size of the crowd become increasingly slaves to insecurity, pride, and anger. As stress levels and unfulfilled man made vision begin to boil over rather than a core church member or staff person being valued for who they are in Christ Jesus in Christ, they are seen merely as a tool, or asset, for achieving one’s goals. And that mindset, to quote James, is ‘earthly and demonic’. When Jesus stated ‘whoso ever desires to be first in the Kingdom of God learn to be a servant of all’ He was not making a suggestion!
When a slave becomes king
The scripture I most often quoted in the abuse book was from Proverbs 30. Verse 21 states “Under three things the earth quakes, And under four, it cannot bear up”. Verse 22 lists the first of those four: “Under a slave when he becomes king”. When someone in leadership is a slave to insecurity and pride the subsequent resulting anger will rise up as the weight of responsibility grows. As the stress levels grows so too does the true make up of the heart manifest. Alternatively, if the peace of God is established in the heart, then that’s what he, or she, will speak out of in moments of stress, But if the ‘nickels, noise, and numbers game’ is what drives a leader then that leader will, like Nebuchadnezzar and his fiery furnace, make everyone around them miserable to the point of the leader’s own downfall.
James’ admonishment ‘Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment’ is a fairly stern warning. It should be a constant reminder to the heart that a leader of the body of Christ is not called to build their empire. Rather, he, or she, is called to be a steward of another’s wealth. Accordingly, the wealth of God, we must always keep in mind, is people. And those people are not pawns, tools, or commodities. They are sons and daughters of God Almighty. In the empires of man people only really hold a utilitarian value- they are valued strictly by their performance. In the Kingdom of God, however, function always follows value. If we in leadership cannot love in the micro of the circle God has put around us- staff and core church members, not to mention spouses and children, then we have no business preaching ‘love another’ to the macro of the world.
Marc A. Dupont