I admit I am struggling with some tension on the topic of leadership. I do see elders playing a role in the early church. Elders in the OT society had a leadership role in their communities. The elders in the NT church would have also played a leadership role in the church community.
There are a number of key verses that come up in discussions on this topic. I will take a look at those soon. However, I think it makes sense to first look at what Jesus had to say on the topic of leadership.
As you take a look at the following verses, consider these questions.
According to Jesus does leadership mean a decision making authority?
Should church leadership resemble government or corporation leadership models?
Or does Jesus simply want his followers to serve each other? Are the leaders among us the ones who serve best and model a servant life the rest should follow?
Jewish Religious Leaders
I think it is worth noting that Jesus was persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders. I think it is safe to say Jesus didn't get along well with most of the religious leaders of the day. They were threatened by Him, and He was challenging their authority. Jesus was known more as a friend of sinners. There were some exceptions where the religious leaders hearts were seeking truth.
Stuff like this were common Matthew 23:26 (NIV)
"Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean."and a long rant in Matthew 23:13-39 (NIV)
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to....."
Who did Jesus pick to be leaders?
Who were the men he chose to be his disciples? Did he find the most educated, the best orators, the most respected men to take on this task. Did he look for natural leaders? No, he picked ordinary people: fishermen, tax collectors, a doctor, and a rebel zealot.
Upside Down Kingdom
Matt 19:30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
Matt 20:16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Mark 9:35 "Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Luke 13:30 "Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
Matthew 19:14 (NIV)
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matt 20:25-28 (NIV)
Jesus called them together and said, “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.”Matthew 23:8-12 (New International Version)
"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. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.Luke 22:24-27 (NIV)
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.
From these verses:
- should church leadership include some decision making authority over others?
- should church leadership models resemble government or corporation leadership models?
Or does Jesus simply want his followers to serve each other? The leaders among us are the ones who serve best and model a servant life the rest should follow. Isn't this the life (and death) he modeled for us?
Personally I find His example very challenging to follow.
- Summary on Elders Overseers Shepherds - 9 post series