Why the Church Does Not Teach Christian Leadership Using the Faithful People of the Bible
People are sinners (Rom 3:23), and sinners operate in a fallen world of sin (Gen 3). The ruler of this world, according to Jesus, is Satan (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The devil is the father of lies (Jn 8:44), who blinds the minds of people to prevent them from seeing the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:4). The dominion of Satan is the domain of darkness (Acts 26:18; Col 1:13).
Christians are illumined by the light of truth as it is in Jesus, who is the light of the world (Mt 5:16; Jn 8:12; Eph 4:21). God shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6). For this reason, we keep our eyes on Jesus, the author of the faith granted to us as a gift of God (Eph 2:8–9; Phil 1:29; Heb 12:2).
Looking to Jesus, the believer grows in grace and knowledge of Him who is our all in all (Col 3:11; 2 Pet 3:18). The child of God is instructed with many directives from the Bible, but faithfulness to comply is a fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; Gal 5:22). It is the Spirit of God who causes God’s people to walk in His statutes (Ezek 36:27), even as they walk by faith in Him (2 Cor 5:7), who alone is faithful and true (Rom 3:14; 19:11)…Jesus Christ.
The church of Jesus Christ has one Leader (Mt 23:10)…Jesus Christ, who is the Head of His body of members (Col 1:18). Jesus is building His church (Mt 16:18), a Temple of living stones being fitted for their place in the whole building — a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Eph 2:20–22; 1 Pet 2:4–5).
As the sheep of God’s pasture, the elect follow the voice of their Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who leads them to feed on the Word of God. It is the Spirit of Christ who guides us into all truth (Jn 16:13). God’s Word is truth (Jn 17:17), and God’s Spirit is the Agent of our sanctification (1 Pet 1:2).
In Hebrews 11, the author presents a select list of those who were faithful from the history of Israel. From this list and elsewhere the reader might presume many were leaders. Leaders in Old Testament Israel were types of Christ, at least the ones deemed faithful in their generation. Every leader was a sinner, however.
Typical figures had attributes that we recognize as perfect in Christ. Regarding leadership qualities, Jesus Christ is the perfect leader. Those who preceded him in Israel pale in comparison.
Every title the Bible ascribes to Jesus is supreme. The world is filled with kings but Jesus is the King of kings (1 Tim 6:15). In the same way, there are many lords, but Jesus is Lord of lords. The church does not import the leadership structures of the world. We have no governors, no presidents, no CEOs, no prime ministers, etc.
God has ordained elders and deacons for the proper running of the local church. A list of character qualities is provided by the Apostle Paul in his pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus. Oversight of Christ’s church is not management of a local, regional, national, or global corporation.
The invention of popes, arch bishops, and other titles promoting hierarchy are simply not found in Scripture, which is our sole source for faith and practice. The churches identified in the New Testament were local, with their own local elders and deacons. Church history teaches us how rich and powerful city-center churches grew in power and influence over and above smaller town and rural congregations.
The grab for money and power has blemished most of church history, as the ways of the world infiltrated the church and became normative. This is why there is little protest at the formation of the cult of church leadership. It is a further problem when Bible interpretation presumes the church operates like the world with its endless leadership conferences and seminars. Sadly, much of the church cries out to God for leaders, much like Israel cried out for a king…having rejected Yahweh as their King (1 Sam 8:1–22).
Instead of developing disciples of Jesus into capable ministers of the Word and men of prayer (Acts 6:4), corporate managers of church programs compete for top spots in the hierarchical ladder (e.g. Lead; Associate; Executive; etc.). Instead of developing disciples of Jesus into capable servants of the body needs, corporate managers of church buildings, equipment, and grounds stay occupied with physical stuff.
In search of leadership examples in the Bible, in order to justify the notion of leadership in Christ’s church, exegetes flock to the Old Testament because there are simply no leadership examples in the New Testament. It is important for us to ask why this is the case.
First, we re-emphasize that Old Testament leaders in the nation of Israel were types of the ultimate Leader to come. They serve to point us to Christ, not to ourselves as church leader wannabes (e.g. “Dare to be a Daniel” or “Dominate like a Deborah”). Their flawed leadership abilities and actions serve as a foil to the church’s one Leader and all of His perfect wisdom, power, and works.
Second, there are no leadership examples in the New Testament church because there is no longer a need for leadership types, since the antitype is manifest. Christ’s church is a spiritual reality, the kingdom of God in the world (Rom 14:17). The Spirit of Christ, our one Leader, now indwells those added to the membership of Christ’s body in nations, tribes, and tongues in every locale.
The church of Christ in every generation and location faithfully teaches disciples one subject…Him. Now with emphasis, Jesus Christ is our Leader. We look to Him. We learn Him. We become like Him because it is His Spirit sanctifying us into conformity to His image (Rom 8:29; 1 Pet 1:2). He is the only Head of His church, and none of the members of His body are training to be little heads.
Jesus Christ is the Great Shepherd and as His sheep we trust Him to shepherd us through those appointed by the Holy Spirit to care for souls (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:1–5)…not to lead an organization that looks more like the world than a holy assembly of chosen people created by Him to worship and serve Him. So, follow Him.
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 25, 2022