You Aren’t The Boss of Me

The complex theories of leadership, government, and church organization that have developed as a “scriptural explanation” attempting to support and justify the traditional and desired systems is sometimes astounding to me.  I really have trouble believing that when either Jesus or Paul talked about the church that they ever imagined the denominational structures and corporate entities that we now call church.

Instead, I believe they were typically explaining how the people of God should live and relate to one another and to the world around them.  Rather than live according to the spirit of their words, we have attempted to extract rules, orders, and structures of authority from various passages of scripture.

The discussion in the comments of the post More Thoughts on Not Starting a Church explored nuances about leadership at a depth that is more insightful than most discussions I read about leadership in the church.

Some random thoughts as I read through the comment thread…

  • The complexity of the structure determines the complexity of organizational leadership that is necessary.
  • Organizational leadership does not equal spiritual authority.
  • Spiritual gifts and maturity do not equal spiritual authority.
  • Organizational leadership may be positional, but relational leadership is not.
  • Relational leadership is fluid, mutual, and voluntary and is dependent on and always mindful of Jesus as the Head and Leader.
  • In our society, it is difficult to use the term leader without assuming an elevated status.
  • It is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive to use influence (maturity, gifts, talents) to serve in a way that empowers others and does not create dependency or position.
  • We learn from and are inspired by the example of others.  This is one of the ways we are encouraged, edified, and grow.

It may not be possible to develop an across-the-board definition or method of leadership in the church, particularly when we consider the variety in degrees of organizational structure.  However, I do believe that is possible to define the fundamental basic values of leadership, power, and authority that we find in Scripture.  How those values are worked out within relationships and structures will likely be a topic of continued debate and discussion.

Any further thoughts?  What is the bottom line for you?


18 thoughts on “You Aren’t The Boss of Me

  1. I have felt for a long time, that the pastor is the administrative leader of a church, but not the spiritual leader. However, to state that in many circles, you are presumed to have a rebellious streak. However, I just have never understood someone being my leader in a spiritual sense… I do not get to blame my success or failure on them, so it seems my outcomes fall to me… and so does the leadership.

  2. Grace, I hold that the truest definition of leadership is embodied in sacrificial love, not in power. Countless leadership books have shown that the truest leader is not one who grasps for power but one who gives it away.

  3. This is so true Grace: “corporate entities that we now call church”.. with the pastor being the corporate CEO of course.

    I have often thought that there is not much difference between the Pope, Pastors and TV Preachers – many seem to believe that they are accountable ONLY to God Himself and that those in their charge are required to submit to them in spiritual matters. Often these leaders are vexed when people revolt against their authority by either becoming vocal or leaving their church. I wrote more on this here –

  4. Bottom line ? Which one! lol:)
    Thats a tough one. I will say though, that I think I know where I would begin.
    First- – hear God for myself, which means having relationship with Him, and then, I will be able to see where He’s leading and where ‘leadership’ is going. If the direction is the same, then I’ve got rest in my heart to go with them, all the while, checking in with Father .

    The answer always seems to be the same for me, Leadership has to be following Jesus.

  5. I’d rather not be my own pope. I know my own failings far too well.

    As I look at history, the relational view of authority, absent positional authority is lacking in support at every turn. I’d rather not adopt a modern interpretation of Scripture strikingly dissimilar from those who walked and talked with the human authors of Scripture. I personally find the idea that everyone from Polycarp until now had it wrong to be more than a tad bit unlikely.


  6. I don’t think there is anything wrong with leadership per se , but I do think we need to be our own judge of where leadership is going & what gospel they are preaching.
    I believe that when it is becoming drudgery and we feel more obligation than affection, it is not what God intends for us.
    Belonging to the body of Christ should be freeing not enslavement.
    I think positional authority fosters a twisted way of thinking and that if power is centralized and focused on one person, that person will become corrupted with it, unless they continually give it away ( as Johnathan said).
    I honestly believe that humility is the only defense for that person, otherwise they will become corrupted by power.
    I don’t think we were made to handle that kind of power and the only real authority is in humility and through Jesus.
    whether you are inside or outside the institution.
    I still really like the idea of a leaderless body, where in fact everyone leads, but only by following Christ.

  7. Speaking from my experiences in serving in some form of leadership capacity over the past 30 years, my greatest experience was serving with a pastoral staff for a period of about six to seven years that was about as close to ‘organic community’ as I have ever encountered. Every staff member, includung the pastor, functioned from the authority of the mission. Positional authority was not implied on any level. Depending upon where the staff was at in any process of the mission, the ‘leadership’ of the person most qualified/gifted ‘led’ the group through that particular area. Even through difficult situations, there always seemd to be a flow, and effort was minimal. When that pastor left, our next pastor brought in a much more positional structure. Soon the organic feel eroded away. The past couple of years have all but drained me as mission now takes a lot of effort. Three of five of the staff of that golden organic era have left. Through circumstances and much prayer, I am now on the verge of leaving too. I am completely disillusioned with the Western modernistic model of corporate institutional church with its flow charts and structural leadership. I long to find somethng outside of that model, a simple organic fellowship that resembles what I enjoyed on staff for those few years of having ‘the perfect job’.

  8. I agree with this Ken:

    “I am completely disillusioned with the Western modernistic model of corporate institutional church with its flow charts and structural leadership.”

    I too long to find something outside of that model.. a place where love and not ego rules the day.

  9. I think the organizational structure Jesus intended for the church is found in what Jesus said – and didn’t say – about it when he was here. He talked about relationship with one another and with God. He gave individual instruction on God’s way of being right, what to say and how to behave.

    He didn’t give lectures on leadership, growing an organization, delegating authority, time and resource management, team building or fund raising. When he did talk about these, it was in the context of God and us; not us to each other. Maybe the glaring absence of any of these topics – which I agree are essential parts of any large organization – is evidence that he didn’t intend for us to develop large organizations.

    I have a friend in the ministry who is an ‘executive pastor.’ On one hand, I like the idea of the spiritual leadership of the church – in the pastor’s gift – being separate from the operational management of the organization, which is the function of the EP. However, isn’t that some sort of clue that things are a bit oversized to begin with? Just askin’.

    1. Possibly Dave, but doesn’t that mean it’s time to build a bigger building and hire more staff? Just askin’. :)

  10. Ken, based on our conversation in the earlier post I must state your comment is surprising. While I think we still have some differences, your comments here lead (no pun intended) me to believe we are much closer in our thinking than my perception of your earlier comments indicated. Keep searching for that organic situation based in relationships. More people are looking for precisely the same thing than you might imagine. I trust Father will reveal others to you with whom you can be in community.

  11. traveller,
    I kind of came to the same conclusion at the end of that string. I think the only difference is that I still use the term ‘leadership’ (from a much different definition/paradigm of the accepted terminology) and you seemed to have eliminated the term all together. However, I am at this point in time still holding to the idea that there is a need for a gifted ‘big picture/visionary’ type leader who is able to lay out a framework that will inspire others to begin to utilize their gifts and abilities to flesh it out. I am not this type of leader. I am a ‘refiner’ and work well under such a creative visionary. In my experience, it’s not always the pastor – but there always seems to be such a gifted person in the mix somewhere.

    1. Ken,

      I understand your thinking. I used to have your view as well. Interestingly, I tend to be the kind of person who has the big picture/vision. But over time I have come to be concerned that it is my vision, or the vision of whoever has it. Plus, I am of the thinking now that the idea of vision in the context of the ekklesia is misplaced, particularly when I also think the ekklesia is intended to be for the most part small gatherings of followers of Jesus. In that situation there is no need for some grand vision of an organization. I am much more aligned with Wayne Jacobsen’s thinking concerning the ekklesia being community and relational.

      I fully recognize I am in a distinctly small minority in this regard. But I have experienced over the past five years a leaderless gathering of Jesus followers that is quite satisfying.

      May your journey continue to take you to interesting and adventurous places with Father.

  12. I liked this from your link Ken:

    “We are each of us leaders in some arena.” often we forget that church leadership is not the only type of spiritual leadership. Often leaders in “secular” areas have a larger spiritual influence than church leaders.

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