1. sam mathew says

    Frank, great article as always! Have you addressed in any of your writings/teachings the ‘gift of leading’ as in Rom 12:8? Thanks!

  2. says

    All too often well meaning (and not so well meaning) people will reach into the Old Testament for authority that no true Christian would claim. It is true that Jesus fulfilled everything that the Law and the Prophets stood for; “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) And, by that same statement, we must look to Jesus to see the True nature of that fulfillment, not the Old Testament.

  3. Brother John says

    The church and true leadership is any place you find the headship of Jesus Christ. Everything else is The Kiwanis, Boy Scouts, or Girls Night Out/In.

  4. mainpain says

    Another great post Frank, thanks. It sure seems to hit a spot with readers based on the comments received.

    As I read through this I kept thinking of the Body of Christ and how it is explained that Christ is the head (Col 1:18)(there are others as well) and therefore fully the driver of the body. When the hand is in use, like putting something in the mouth, it becomes active and appears to be operating in a leadership role in the body, but in reality all the functions of the body are controlled by the head (brain). Doesn’t make the feet the leader when walking, or the stomach the leader when digesting food, or the mouth the leader when talking.

    As I think about the full function of a healthy body I can see clearly how the Body of Christ ought to operate when fully motivated and intentioned by the Holy Spirit. The clergy/laity system is clearly an abrogation of healthy body ministry and allows the ekklesia to abdicate responsibility to operate fully as part of Christ. It also puts an unrealistic load on the people assuming the role of clerics as they can never fully do what the job requires.

    How much better if we operate in “body ministry” with each section of the body fulfilling its role in a healthy body. All benefit when each part function in a healthy manner just as all suffer when operating out of order. The parallels become astounding as you walk this out.

    It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me.

  5. Jay says

    Good article. The words translated as leader in Hebrews 13:17, 14 and Romans 12:8 are participles which could be translated as “leading ones” or as you said guard that is guarding ones, so we see the emphasis is on the doing not on that of a position.

  6. Joel Blest says

    The role/function of overseer/elder is quite distinct from gifting.
    Titus is instructed to “appoint” (NIV) elders/overseers. Qualifications are listed for those who “aspire” to the “task” (NIV) of being an elder/overseer. Gifts are never “appointed”, nor do gifts require qualifications any qualifications of the receiver.
    A natural reading of Titus/Timothy is that Paul had authority (yes an authority that was affirmed by his relationship with Christ, but an authority that was given directly by Christ), that he gave Titus/Timothy an authority, and that the elders they were to appoint would also have authority.
    Does the church have issues that need serious attention in terms of its leadership structure and the way many leaders function? Absolutely. But the Bible is clear that there need to be competent, Christ-following servant leaders to equip and raise up the Church (and new leaders). Leaders have the responsibility to God to equip and also protect the flock. This responsibility necessitates authority. Side-stepping that responsibility may be more popular, but it is dangerous for the flock.

    • says

      I’m not sure what you’re responding to here. There wasn’t a word that was contra elders/overseers or any others “side-stepping” responsibility. As I’ve pointed out in “Reimagining Church” in a detailed argument, elder is the person, overseer is the function, and shepherd is the gift. They are different terms for the same role. But elders never dominated or controlled the churches. All told, I don’t see anything you’ve said here to overturn any of my points. Your comments on “authority” are a different issue all together and you’re assuming a great deal with the word. I’ve addressed this in detail in “Reimagining Church.” There is organic authority and official authority. The two are very different.

  7. Julie B. says

    As believers, when someone creates a question in our minds, we should stop and consider what is really at the root of our disagreement. My view may seem rather simplistic to the students or theologians that have commented above, however in the case of the leadership question, it could come back to what in reality is a very basic personal sin or shortcoming that is being justified by wrapping it in scripture reference or doctrinal teaching. People that resist changing their view of traditional institutional leadership in the church to become more biblically based may have one of two deep level motivations: 1) seeking power, control and glory for themselves as a “leader”, or 2) seeking to avoid personal responsibility, which includes the discipline of discipleship, and becoming fully operational in their gifts and calling. When either self glory or failure to take responsibility exist, the church winds up in a situation of being handicapped by stunted functionality instead of being a healthy body. Maybe that is why church attendance has declined so much in recent decades? People sense that the body is not healthy, they just don’t know why.

  8. Jeff Martin says

    Like the post! As Dr. Roy Ciampa told me one time, there is nothing in the description of a bishop in 1 Timothy 3 that does not also apply to any other Christian except for one – the ability to teach!

    • says

      Thx. Yes, but Hebrews and Colossians says that all should teach. So in one sense, every believer should be able to instruct others. Just like every believer is exhorted to prophecy (1 Cor. 14). At the same time, there are those with special gifts of teaching and others with special prophetic gifts. “Bishop” is a poor translation. “Overseer” is much more accurate.

  9. JoeMc says

    I have not read your other books on this subject so you may address my concerns elsewhere. But this article IMHO give the wrong impression. While all members of the Body have a ministry and are equal in the sight of the Lord, some have been called to equip the saint so they can serve more effectively. These are called fivefold ministers. The philosphy of ministry is laying down the life in the service of others – not hierarchy – but they are gifted uniquely by God to impart to Christ’s people. All are gifted, all are anointed, yet some are gifted to equip others. Paul says apostles and prophets are stewards of the mystery of Christ and are listed first in 1 Cor. 12:28. Again, not hierarchy, but rather priority of equipping. Lay the foundation for others to build upon. If you have addressed this elsewere, let me know. Your article as it stand leaves a wrong impression.

    • says

      I don’t see how the article “leaves a wrong impression.” You’re talking about “equipping” . . . I’m talking about leadership. Not identical. I would argue that most articles and books on Christian leadership leave the wrong impression. That some are leaders and other’s aren’t, and some will give their souls for the title of “leader.” Hence my post.

      And let me remind you of something that was repeated many times in the post. This is a summary of “Reimagining Church.” The details are in that book.

      Yes, I’ve written on the so-called “five fold ministry” before. See the post “Rethinking the Five-Fold Ministry” in the archives.

  10. says

    Excellent work as usual Frank. The only thing I would add as a major cause of the rise of the clergy is the Constantinian shift. I know you’re aware of it, but I think it is important enough to warrant inclusion even where space is limited. Because this runs deeper (and older) than the church adopting business models from the world. This goes back to the church choosing the world’s mode of power over following Jesus. Jesus told us the Spirit was coming to show that the ruler of this world has been judged. As far back as Constantine, church leaders sided with what has already been condemned. Which is why what you are up against here is the very spirit of antichrist.

    • says

      Thanks. I do make mention that I trace the origin of the clergy system in “Pagan Christianity,” which covers this. However, in my book I point out that the clergy/laity divide precedes Constantine. We can largely credit Constantine for bringing it into the Christian faith.

  11. says

    Frank your blog is a gift, your points are sound and here for the taking. The discussion thread that followed is in many ways was richer than the blog.

    This again points out to the value and blessing of community.

    Equally this venue displays what effective leadership is. You presented a thought, the body entertained this thought, and expressed what this meant to them. In this discussion leadership was on display, in the form of the comments, and the reply’s.

    Thanks to one and all for this discussion!

  12. Dan says

    A year ago I would have stood in line to try and arrogantly tell you how wrong you are. Thanks to Christ for a revelation of the truth. 6 years as a “Pastor” for me kept me from seeing God’s true purpose for me. To live with others as an expression of His life here on earth.
    I spent years telling others that they needed to “do” better and I had a list of things to show what that meant. People listened because I had a title that they believed was ordained by God they would listen to me.
    Those days are behind me. It is not about me, it is not about any one individual, not titles offices or power. There is only one that matters. Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are all in a different place in life and therefore all see a different aspect of Christ’s infinite depths. We all need to share what we know of Christ. We have a lifetime to mine His depths and we will never even come close to seeing all there is of Christ.

    • says

      This was the proper response to such a sobering word! There was such a clear distinction between the Spirit of Jesus Christ in this response compared to the spirit of anitchrist in others.

  13. Stephen Rigg says

    Wonderful post as usual Frank, you should write a book on the subject and call it “Reimagining Church” or something like that. 😉

    I have to say, I have enjoyed reading the comment section almost as much as the post itself.

    In the world, some like to lead because of the control they can wield, take politicians for example. Then you have the rest of the people who desire leaders to take responsibility so that they can be involved as little as they desire to be.

    I have to say that much of what I have seen in the “church” has looked very much like that as well. I believe what you laid out in the post is more what the Kingdom of God looks like. It makes me wonder just how wide and narrow those roads are that lead to destruction and life?

  14. John Meyer says

    The Apostles seem to wield authority over both the ‘churches’
    and individuals. Peter judged Ananius and his wife Sapphira.

    There also was a ruling made by the Apostels, the elders and the
    Brethren that the Gentiles abstain from things offered to idols, blood
    Things strangled, and from sexual immorality.

    Paul ordered that a certain man (1 Cor. 5) be turned over to Satan.
    Paul also threatened to come to a certain group with a rod.

    I’m not disagreeing with what you said, I just have questions about what
    You didn’t address. Obviously the apostles had both power and authority
    Over the church.

    It’s also fair to mention that it is their letters from which we get our doctrine
    and standards to live by. 1 Thessalonians.

    Nice article. Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Only have sec. but this is the traditional view of “authority” and I take issue with it. So does Robert Banks. Spiritual authority was exercised *when* and only when the mind of Jesus Christ was being revealed. The authority was spiritual/organic . . . rooted in the life of Christ which was seasoned in some (like Paul). But it wasn’t official, i.e., invested in a certain office irrespective of what the person did or said. That’s why the writer of Hebrews says “allow yourselves to be persuaded.”

      In “Reimagining Church,” I list all the texts where Paul charges a church. In that list, you’ll find that the few times when Paul “commanded,” he did so “in the Lord Jesus Christ” or he referred to something the Lord Himself said. Most of the time, he pleads, beseeches, admonishes, exhorts, encourages, and even requests. Paul did not have a hierarchical top/down relationship with the churches he cared for. In fact, in some of his letters, he submits to the church itself. Even saying that if he preaches or teaches anything contrary to Jesus Christ, let him be cursed. Paul’s relationship to the churches is summed up in his words in 2 Corinthians 1:24, “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy.” I hope you’ll read the book and examine the arguments. Would be happy to dialogue with you about it more afterwards. It presents a different view of leadership/authority than the traditional view. The Scriptures — in context — have the final word, I believe.

  15. Chris says

    I sent this post to my cousin. He thinks you have been influenced by anarchists. What would you say to this?

    • says

      He’s welcome to come on the blog and ask me himself. But that’s a first. Snyder, Banks, Barth, Dunn, Nee, Yoder, Sparks, etc. weren’t anarchists.

  16. says

    Excellent post my friend. Haven’t had time to read the comments yet, but you always manage to draw some friendly fire. We are all leaders at times and we are all followers at times; occasionally we wear both hats at the same time. The separation of leaders & followers into distinct groups is not New Testament theology, but a relic of human institutions, as you made clear enough.

    You’re such a bombthrower…..

    Pass the hand grenades?


    • says

      Well, you should read the post. But your statement is a non-sequitur. It does not follow. It’s like saying, “If all Christians are priests (which the NT clearly states), then none are priests.” Or “If all are ministers (which the NT clearly states), then none are ministers.”

      Neither of those statements work from the NT perspective. We are called to minister to one another . . . and to the world. We are called to lead/guide one another (as well as the world) to Christ.

      There is one HEAD. But all who share His life are leaders under the one HEAD pointing to and expressing the Head in different ways. All lead in different ways … in different capacities … and through different giftings and functions. Re-read 1 Cor. 12 in this light and you’ll see leadership in a new way.

      The ingrained clergy/laity dichotomy has really messed us up with all of this. Not to mention the Western view of leadership. It’s made “leadership” a bad word. And in many cases, it is.

      I think my 4-aspect definition of leadership should clear the matter up for you.

  17. Tom says

    I haven’t read the book yet so maybe it’s answered there, but what do you say about Paul telling Timothy and Titus to appoint elders in the churches. Doesn’t that mean they were offices that had authority?

    • says

      This is addressed in “Reimagining Church” in detail. There is no question that certain people were endorsed for certain tasks in the NT. Take Acts 6 for instance. The seven men selected in Acts 6 weren’t given some kind of unilateral authority over everyone else, nor where they installed into a social construct (“office”) that had intrinsic authority regardless of the persons who populated it.

      Rather, the seven were selected for a task based upon their spiritual maturity and wisdom. The same is true for those places where Paul endorsed elders (which wasn’t in all the churches, by the way). In the OT, Moses publicly acknowledged elders who were *already functioning* as elders, the Scripture says. Moses just made it public.

      In the same way, when someone endorses a book of mine publicly they aren’t giving the book authority. They’re simply acknowledging an authority that they perceive the book already possesses. The problem with us viewing the endorsement of elders in South Galatia, Crete, and Ephesus as “installment into office” is that we are imposing the Western idea of “office” (as in the office of the Presidency — see my comment to Jim W. below about that) as having an authority irrespective of the individuals who populate those offices.

      In the NT, rather, the idea is that spiritual authority is based on spiritual maturity and wisdom — a la, expressing the mind of God. And in some cases, that’s endorsed publicly and in other cases, such individuals are given certain tasks. If a person … be it elder or apostle … is teaching something that goes against the will and mind of the Head (Christ), they have no authority in what they’re saying. All authority comes from Christ. This is all discussed in detail in the book and scriptural examples are given.

      Even so, if someone still insists that elders are “offices” in the modern Western sense of the word, that doesn’t take away from or overturn the message of the post on leadership nor any of the other points listed.

  18. says

    First thank you Frank for your always (for me) above average clarity with which you express your thinking!

    Second, I believe that our obsession with Leadership as it is usually seen has to do with our desire to “run properly” the church organization like a business enterprise and with our “celebrity culture” obsession that we borrow directly from the world. The message that goes around in many church planting agencies(Acts 29 and others) is that we have to run an organization properly (doctrine, regulation, procedures) and that it is mainly a guy centered view of the church (the lead guy pastor) who like a hero pulls it all together with the help of some volunteer/diacons and the money of the congregants…

    I encounter similar healthy thinking in Indonesian Pastor Eddy Leo of Abba Love, Jakarta. In their church (50,000 people) they are trying to adopt an empowering model of leadership to run their church moving away from a previous top down approach. I wonder if you Frank had contacts with him (I have a pdf format of his book if you are interested to read, he told me you were very inspiring to him) and/or were able to see what he is doing?

    I think that it would be very refreshing to see some alternative church model in place and I also wonder if so many of the miracles and wonder that the church of the East experiences is not also linked to their more biblical view of leadership that let’s the gifts of each individual be used more powerfully within the church.

    Frank would you say that if we adopted a more biblical approach to leadership the amazing testimonies from the church of the East (healing of people, etc. like in the book of Acts)could be also be heard in the church of the West?

    • says

      Thx. I don’t know Leo. But I’m encouraged by the comment. I’m not sure about your last question . . . I think the issue is more complicated and deeper. But resolving the leadership issue certainly couldn’t hurt and would help on several levels, I believe.

  19. JackW says

    I’ve been thinking along these lines for years, mostly due to the writing of Ray Stedman. Is he an influence of yours Frank?

  20. Mike Mathewson says

    Is it fair to say:
    Christian leaders = Biblical “salt” and “light” … God’s people to influence the world?

  21. Teague McKamey says

    I think the Father, Son, & Spirit are the best leadership model. Within God there is hierarchy (as seen in John 14:10 & 16:13; 1 Cor. 15:28) & union (John 17–which is more the side where leadership can come from any member). To present a true image of God, I think the church must function in both. Hierarchy has been overemphasized, and your comments about that resonate with me. I have been part of a group or two, however, where people didn’t function in hierarchy, & I saw people damaged in that situation as well. It’s possible too that God could use an emphasis on hierarchy or union leadership depending on the need of the time. For example, despite all the failings of episcopal forms of church government, I wonder if the church would’ve survived her first few centuries without it….

    • says

      Teague: The idea that there is hierarchy in God has been refuted by the best theologians. I discuss it in “Reimagining Church,” the first chapter along with sources. We impose hierarchy to those texts, but it’s not present. We must distinguish between Jesus as a man (who was submitted to the Father) and Jesus the Eternal Son who was/is co-equal with the Father.

  22. Mark Christian-Edwards says

    Quick note on the word kleros (one of my favourites):
    It is used in the Greek old testament to refer to apportioned-out, inheritable pieces of the promised land. Every family got one. For example Naboth’s vineyard was his ‘kleros’ – his family inheritance.

    The whole point being that a ‘kleros’ was something *everybody was given* as opposed to what it has come to mean, something only certain people get to be.

    Kleros in 1 Peter in fact refers, not to the leaders themselves, but to the people around them, in their sphere of oversight/care ( our inheritance portion in the new creation is given to us in the form of people to care for, rather than geographical territory to own). My kleros is my portion of Christ’s flock . Only he can give me this kleros, but he gives a kleros to us all. The people in my kleros are not given me to “lead” but to look out for. The resulting network is completely unofficial, in human terms utterly disorganised, all-encompassingly global, and at the same time relentlessly local to each of us. I think it’s the shape of the church.

    • Robyn G says

      Frank & Mark…I love words…I love to write…am a crossword and scrabble fanatic…and love understanding the origin of words and definitions. Thank you so much for clarifying this important one…kleros. You have reminded me to dig into origins and definitions more so that I do not blindly accept the altered misuse of The Word :)

      • Robyn G says

        Mark…I like the picture you give of “looking out for” instead of “leading.” Many a shepherd follows behind or alongside the sheep…rarely races ahead of them unless there is eminent danger…and even then relys on others, such as a sheep dog or guardian dog, to be sent quickly to warn, protect. Thanks for making that distinction :)

    • Jennifer says

      Mark, Wow! Thank you so much for sharing. This confirms something that the Spirit was just speaking to me about just a couple of hours ago. “Only He can give me this kleros”…. amazing how something you share with one person has no effect whatsoever, but someone else is so hungry for that word that you share and takes it and runs with it. A humbling word that reminds us that if anyone is uplifted or encouraged by our words, it is only because God has given us favor in their eyes. It has nothing to do with us.

  23. JON says

    “While all the versions of the kingdom of the world acquire and exercise power over others, the kingdom of God, incarnated and modeled in the person of Jesus Christ, advances only by exercising power under others. It expands by manifesting the power of self-sacrificial, Calvary-like love.”
    ~ Greg Boyd

  24. says

    Just a quick note. Banks’ work is not as universally accepted as may be assumed.

    But that doesn’t obviously destroy your point 😉 Just an aside…


    • says

      I trust you realize that no book is “universally accepted,” even the Bible. The only thing that scholars have contended about Banks’ book is a minor issue that’s off the point of his thesis. It has to do with Pauline authorship of Ephesians. I am more confident that Paul wrote Ephesians than Banks is. But many scholars would stand with Banks’ question on that point. It’s a moot point to his overall thesis. In fact, my post today is on Christian pettiness. Give it a read as it speaks to this very thing.

  25. says

    I recently preached on how God has gifted every Christian as a ministry gift to the church.. drawing on Romans and Ephesians, I showed how he is using the same language to make the same point in both letters, and therefore the 2 lists are not exhaustive, prescriptive or hierarchical in nature.

    I like how you engaged with the Romans 12 use of ‘leaders’ which makes a lot of sense. Thanks. cb

  26. says

    And let me again just highlight Sabrina’s well worded statement:
    ” Let’s just count the times that church members are invited to attend “leadership seminars” in a year as opposed to “Dwelling in Christ” seminars.”
    Powerfully stated, Sabrina! You led me into a great way to word this concept! :)

  27. Joshua Lee Henry says

    Awesome post Frank. I really appreciate your four elements of Christian leadership, especially leadership pointing to Jesus Christ, the ultimate leader and servant. As His followers, he has set the example for our life. Part 2 of “Reimagining Church” definitely helps in furthering the discussion.

  28. Renate says

    I totally agree with this article. Thanks for sharing and putting into words what I have tried to explain when frustrated with how people see leadership in the church.

  29. Pam says

    Jesus as the mediator between God and man ought to be enough but people want visible mediators, even if they are unnecessary. Jesus is all about equality but people like hierarchy. In the body of Christ, there is no one member more important than the other and every part of the body is needed for proper function. The head of the body is, Jesus and when we put ‘leaders’ in that place there is all kinds of dysfunction in the body and it is as much the fault of the ‘laity’ as the ‘clergy’. Each member of the body of Christ must look directly to, Jesus Christ for direction. A foot can’t look to a hand for instructions in how to walk but has to receive those directions directly from the head.I think everyone involved in church knows the problems caused when people attend a church because of the leadership and not because they are led to membership by the Holy Spirit.We end up with churches built on the personality of a man rather than on the foundation of Christ. We should only follow another believer as they follow Christ but often, people get caught up in following a charismatic leader and leave off on imitating Christ,altogether.It is easier to follow someone we can see an touch rather than someone we can’t see or touch. The only way to solve the problem is for each individual to remain focused on, Jesus because the false division of clergy and laity isn’t so much a problem of form but of spirit.


  30. Mike says

    I’m inclined to say yes. I’ve read Reimagining Church and completely agree with the picture Frank paints.

    But let me be honest, the few times I mentioned the idea of ‘living by the indwelling Christ’ (or something to that affect) to my Christian friends, it was always met with either an awkward silence or a vague nod in the direction of having the Holy Spirit as our guide. Illiteracy is begetting illiteracy in the practice of spiritual living. And let me be honest again–the Bible really doesn’t give us much practical material when it comes to the ‘how to’ of living by an indwelling Christ. Given these two facts, society will fill tend to the void with the ‘hard science’ of traditional leadership where the available material is never-ending. Not saying I like it, but just that this is what we’re dealing with.

    How do we fix this mess? The thing I really appreciate about Frank’s books (having read nearly all of them) is that he’s not afraid to take a position where the Bible is clear, regardless of how the position diverges from the conventional Christian wisdom. If the majority of Christians would actually swallow the biblical fact that we have the triune God living collectively inside of us AND we collectively trust this fact enough to live it out (read ‘faith’), then I think more of us would adopt the biblical model of Christ’s leadership. But instead we either (a) ignore/avoid this fact, (b) interpret verses like Galatians 5:25 vastly different than a simple ‘straight up’ interpretation, (c) see traditional leadership models as a means of ‘supplementing’ the Sprit’s leadership, or (d) don’t trust Christ to lead His Body.

  31. George says

    Excellent post Frank. Your book Reimagining Church goes into more detail. I like the way you treat the issue of “Covering” in that book. Keep up the good work

  32. David Morgan says

    Mr. Viola,
    Your post has helped clarify an ongoing conversation in my home informal assembly of 15 years. Within our group is a true brother who once was a “worship leader”. He and I have walked together for decades. He like I, believe that we present a sacrifice of praise to the Lord,regardless of emotions, want to, or talent. So then, many times our time together in the assembly is silent. He becomes quite frustrated thinking everyone is waiting for him to start. Having read your blog, I am thinking perhaps we do and should.

    I do start a hymn when one occurs to me, but that is generally few and far between. He on the other hand has one begun before the last one has ended. Interestingly, when we started meeting in the 90’s our group was mostly 20 to 40 year olds. Our singing was mostly praise and worship style songs. Our group has divided and split off a couple of times since then. Praise the Lord. Now our group is primarily retirement and older. (The youngest is me and my friend and our wives. Mid 50’s) The songs we sing are predominately old hymns sung with the same gusto and brokenness that accompanied our praise songs of 15 years ago.

    Leadership became a vile word for us many years ago. Perhaps we have carried that peculiar crusade too far and ignored the legitimate right of the Lord to use us how and when it suits Him… and us. Again, we have built boxes for Him. Thanks for the insight.

    • says

      Indeed, Christians fall off one side of the horse or the other when it comes to leadership. It becomes either an idol/obsession for some or a cuss word and toxin to be avoided for others. Both ideas run contrary to NT revelation. So I hope this post helps in re-presenting the subject.

  33. Melissa says

    Excellent post! It gives a lot to think about and it’s a nice refresher on Reimagining Church. It make sense that people would be more persuasive in their specific areas of gifting and that everyone can and should lead because we are all different. I think we tend to over-complicate things!

  34. Chad Leighfield says

    Isn’t it a fact that you go for years knowing that something is missing, then God provides the likes of Frank & George Barna along with others, for instance Bill Johnson, and they put into words things that deep down we all know, but have no datum for, and have no way of verbalizing. The reason we know is because the ‘teacher’ is in us and we get that inner witness, we just know that we know that we know.
    Since starting to read the above, my spiritual life has accelerated so much that I’m beginning to know what “they shall soar as eagles” really means. Not that I’ve achieved that, but at least it’s in my vision.

  35. Nancy says

    Good work Frank. I’ve always had an interest in reading leadership books. One day someone walked into my office at a church where I was employed. She looked at my library of books which were mostly on leadership and said to me “why do you read all those leadership books, when you only work in administration”. My comment to her was exactly what you have stated, “As Christians we are all leaders no matter what vocation we choose.” About 5 years ago I stopped reading leadership books and picked up my Bible more seriously. It has now become my leadership manual.

    Thanks for stretching our minds to contemplate on some of the questions we have grappled with for so long.

  36. Charlotte says

    I loved this article. It actually brought healing to me. I am in a church dominated by long-term “leaders”. You literally have to claw your way up the leadership ladder to be allowed to do something like lead a small group Bible study. The church leadership course is unnecessarily lengthy and college style material. It has a syllabus–is a semester in length, etc. I moved to help a family member and as a 50 something had to change churches. I immediately asked about how to become involved. However, I found the lectures, studying and memorizing completely overwhelming. Rejection followed when the leadership book accompanying the class listed three pages of “leadership characteristics” and I had none of them. Yet I knew I was supposed to do something. I struggled to finish college–so I feel the church leadership class is possibly above me academically. My husband has a master’s degree and he seems to be handling it. He goes to the class and I stay home. I was allowed to teach a few lessons as an apprentice but was kicked out of my home group after I spoke up to the leader privately about some obvious personal problems she was having. I am bold for the Lord, study the Bible daily and have gone on numerous medical missions trips as an LPN.(not associated with my church) I serve in my calling as I have opportunity. I know my place in the body–yet my church has rejected me. I do have good influence among family members. But other than a few friends from church that actually took the time to get to know me, I am stuck as a pew sitter because I didn’t make the “leadership grade” at the church. It’s a waste of 30 years of a Christian walk. Until I read your article, I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was wrong, but there are a lot of black sheep in my church that aren’t allowed to use their gifts and talents because the leadership won’t accept them. Now, I know it isn’t scriptural. Many thanks. You brought great encouragement to me.

  37. Robyn G says

    WOW…you just blew my mind!!! Thank you so much for addressing this nagging issue I have. Outside of traditional church going on 5 years, I still have difficulty letting go of the “authority figures” I’ve been pointed to in scripture such as “pastor/shepherd.” I’ve come to terms with elders and “deacons” and long ago realized they rarely serve as intended in modern “church.” My own father has had to turn down numerous offers to become a deacon. He finds that he is already serving the poor, fatherless, widowed, hungry, more so than the deacon body and understands that the power role played by many is totally out of line with scripture. The picture of being influenced, and allowing the influence of other mature and faithful believers is so clear to me now. This was a huge eye-opener today :) I also love the reminder that no matter what, everyone is almost always influencing others…for good or for bad…good leadership is not about power, visibility or recognition…but is about walking with Christ so that we can responsibly and naturally lead others positively without even knowing it.

  38. fadeke says

    What an explanation! Personally, in the process of obeying a church leader and being loyal to him, my focus shifted completely from Christ. I took in all he believed and taught without checking what indwelling Christ had to say. In fact, hearing anything different from what my leader said was impossible.

    I’m done with all that. To many, I look like a backslider, but I can say I get to know Christ more. I still have lots of detoxing to do though.

  39. says

    Is it possible that much of Christianity today is focused on being a leader when it should rather be focused on how to follow an indwelling Christ?

    Absolutely. Just check out most of the Christian conferences offered each year. Leadership has possibly even become an idol in the western church. But what good is leadership that is not flowing from a rich fellowship and followership of our living, indwelling Christ? Spiritual maturity comes more by experience in the Lord and His body than by title or book knowledge, and it takes time and patience to build on experience.

    The focus on leadership that you describe is unnatural to the body of Christ and ends up burning out untold young believers, many of whom even turn away from the faith. Seems like Jesus and Paul both gave ample warning of this.

  40. Monica says

    Totally agree! We are all leaders and should step up and take the gift given to us instead of waiting or pushing someone else to step up and take over for us. I have seen two beautiful souls pushed in to a “leadership” role, one in a religious church setting and one in a home group. Both people were slowly made the focus and in turn less focus was put on Christ. Everyone began looking to that one person instead of to Christ himself for answers and direction. What that person believed was right because it was what that one person believed. People stopped seeking Christ’s answer because that one person had them all, whether they were right or wrong. Such a shame, for the person in the role and for the people following. In essence, we cheat ourselves by not taking our roles as leaders. As you put it, “According to the New Testament, all are gifted, all are servants (“ministers”), all are priests, and all have ministry as members of the body. In addition, all are called to be examples of Jesus.”. It’s a very dangerous time, and I think as believers of Christ we should be more adamant in following Christ example not one of an appointed person.

  41. says

    Something else to consider, people may be gifted for a season or for a particular purpose. That means that he/she is supposed to lead, but that doesn’t mean he/she is supposed to continue leading in that area for the rest of his/her life. I think Christians sometimes recognize unique gifting and influence and are so impressed by the good results that they expect it to happen in that same manner again.

    For example, yesterday you asked people to share stories that build faith, stories about something God has done, perhaps miraculously. I shared a story about a healing. I confided in a friend from church about what had happened, but I didn’t share it openly with everyone, because I didn’t want people to think that I had a gift of healing. It was more that God decided to heal, and He wanted the woman with colon cancer to know that her healing was His decision and doing. The friend that I shared the healing story with immediately encouraged me to lay hands on a girl with autism. It made me sad when he responded that way, because he didn’t understand that it had nothing to do with me or my will. I have never heard God telling me to say or do anything related to healing since.

    Long story short, I think that as “leaders” it is good to recognize the source of any influence we may have on the lives of others, and to be willing to be “ungifted” at any time, should God decide to give us a new assignment.

    Pagan Christianity, for me, was a real eye-opener in some areas and confirmation in other areas. I haven’t read other books yet, but I will. I don’t always agree with everything you say, but your blogs are a good indication that you are gifted with insight in certain matters.

    • John Mark Boonaerts says

      Thanks for your insight. Great observation. Even though we have certain gits, God uses us is various ways.

  42. Nick says

    Thank you so much for this post! It is invaluable to the body.

    A resounding “yes” to your question. I have witnessed the reality of this “yes” in both my own life and in the lives of many believers with whom I have had the pleasure to have fellowship. Growing up in the institutional church, I was never taught how to seek Christ on my own. I was taught how to read and “study” the Bible and how to be a better Christian. I was never given any vision or practical instruction on knowing and sharing the Lord with brothers and sisters, because I mostly only received from two or three men designated as “leaders”. And if I was “mature” enough, then I would be able to lead in ministry myself, and teach OTHER believers how to study the Bible and become better Christians. I didn’t know Christ at all as the Body, and I barely even knew him as the Head!

    Now that the Lord, by his grace, has freed me from this system, I see it in the lives of many other believers with whom I have grown up. The ideas of “seeking the Lord” and “knowing the Lord” seem like foreign concepts. What is talked about is what we’re doing for the Lord and what he’s doing for us, like we’re in a business relationship with Christ. It’s saddening, but I have to remember that what the Lord did in me, he can do in any one of his people. May God continue to free his children from these man-centered structures so that we will be free to know and love him in ways that we’ve never even dreamed of!

  43. Greg Dressel says

    What else is there but, following after Christ Jesus?? I am done following anything but Him. He alone is my hope and joy and as I chase hard after Him, I find people joining me in chasing this One who is incredible. Funny always wanted to be useful to Him but only can be useful to Him as I chase hard after Him!

    There are three books I found very helpful of yours Frank. Reimagining Church, From Eternity to Here and Epic Jesus.

  44. Shannon says

    Great insights! In answer to your question, “Is it possible that much of Christianity today is focused on being a leader when it should rather be focused on how to follow an indwelling Christ?”

    The answer is YES and I can give examples. Most of the popular speakers today talk about leadership and how to be a great leader, I can name them but I won’t. But I never hear any of them talk about living by the indwelling life of Jesus. None of them. When I read Jesus Manifesto by you and Leonard Sweet, it was the first time I saw this in the scripture and I’ve been diving in more ever since.

  45. Mick Smith says

    Good stuff!! Leadership is a gift not an office, and it is a gift ‘for’ the body not ‘over’ the body. It is also a gift on a level par with every other gift in the body, which are all as important and needed. Once you place leadership as a ‘position’ in the body you immediately stifle other gifts and make one more important. ‘Priesthood of believers’ has to be a living reality rather than a very nice idea that we all assent to in theory. Recommend your book “Reimagining Church” [formerly titled “Who is your covering”] for anyone wanting a fuller exposition on this topic. Bless you Frank.

  46. Teena Stewart says

    If only more people could grasp this. Think of the impact. Many sit back and wait for the paid clergy to do lead because they don’t see themselves as leaders and, after all, isn’t that what clergy went to school for?

  47. Sabrina says

    Is it possible that much of Christianity today is focused on being a leader when it should rather be focused on how to follow an indwelling Christ?

    Oh my! Yes it is. Let’s just count the times that church members are invited to attend “leadership seminars” in a year as opposed to “Dwelling in Christ” seminars.

    In my experience “leaders” in many churches are always (consciously or unconsciously) on the lookout for “fresh meat”. By this I basically mean that anytime someone walks in the door that shows the tiniest bit of responsibility, enthusiasm, or desire to serve, they pounce and recruit them for their particular ministry. Many times this means they give all of their time, talent and treasures to running a program. I must admit that there are years in my past where I did exactly that. I’ve seen it elsewhere, so I know I’m not the only one. This was a necessary strategy. How else would I replace the volunteers who had either burned out and dropped out? Or the ones who proved to be people of influence and accomplishment who moved up to other more “visible” or “important” work?

    Oy vey! I’m glad that I hopped off that train. Now I’m enjoying new freedom in Christ, letting Him set the pace and grow in me and my brothers and sisters the qualities that He desires, as we seek Him together.

    Thanks Frank for your words of instruction and encouragement.

  48. Tim says

    This is an exquisite article. I can’t find any fault with it. I wonder how many “leaders” will share it though. I just ordered your book. The subject intrigues me.

  49. Marsha says

    This informaton has helped me tremendously. In my church body, I see so many people appointed to leadership positions who are far from true leaders. They are appointed due to the tithing they pay and some pay more just to get the position. They only act out what the pastor says and much of it is promoting division.

  50. Dave says

    I think this is the best article on leadership I’ve ever read. Glad you mentioned this was a supplement to your book. I appreciate the detail that Reimagining Church gets into on all of this, it’s good that people who haven’t read the book yet know this. You are right that each point can have its own book but you did a fantastic job putting the key points in a concise blog. Thanks!

  51. says

    Quite true. Many of the people I see as leaders in the church hold no office or title, are not invited to speak at conferences or paid to write books but are simply serving God and leading by example everyday as they follow Christ. Not everyone leads in the same way but every Christian can be a leader in some way.

  52. Jim Wright says

    I agree fully with what you say. What you don’t say, however, can be a source of difficulty.

    I hope that this is not misconstrued as disagreeing in the least with all the wonderful points you make. It’s just that the point which is missing (or at least not clear) is that the many forms and areas of leadership in the Body of Christ includes actual elders – as repeatedly referenced and discussed in the New Testament.

    It is hard to avoid the clear fact that discrete elders in a local fellowship did exist in the New Testament, and there are numerous passages discussing their qualifications, role and responsibilities.

    Elders, we have learned in our own fellowships, are those who emerge within and from fellowship (rather than the current church planting model of fellowship emerging from leadership) – with a grace and gifting needed to watch over that fellowship. Their role is not rooted in hierarchy, title or “office”, but in the respect and esteem they have because of their wisdom, maturity, favor and gifting to act as role models. As such, they have a heightened – but not exclusive – responsibility to protect the flock and guide (i.e., shepherd) through persuasion.

    The NT calls these folks “elders” – and in the NT they are always plural within a local congregation. They lead by persuasion, as is true with all believers in the Body of Christ in any given area of ministry or function. But they have a specific role which Paul recognized through the laying on of hands.

    Paul either personally returned to the various fellowships he helped start, or sent Timothy, Titus or others back to them, to see who had emerged to function as elders – and then laid hands on them to appoint them as elders. He thus recognized this particular form of distinct leader within the fellowship.

    In our own fellowships, we have such people. They, however, don’t care about or carry any “title”, but they clearly are providing mature guidance (without ever dominating or controlling) and also help create secure environment for others to come forth. They don’t need title or office, because their role is clear and recognized by all due to the respect they have. However, if asked who were our elders, I could certainly list them.

    Like you, we have learned not to focus first on leadership, but rather on letting Christ in us be expressed among us and through us. Leadership in many areas just naturally happens – including in the area of serving in a fellowship as an elder.

    The tragedy today is that someone serving as a true leader never needs to defend some assumed position, title or office. So I am not doing that here. But I am recognizing that there is a proper place for discrete elders in local fellowships.

    Anyway, I suspect if you were more clear in acknowledging the proper place and role of elders in a local fellowship – despite the many leadership misuses and abuses common today – it would be easier for those actually living in fellowship to see the wisdom of your writings generally on leadership. Not acknowledging more clearly that in the NT there is a form of leadership within a local fellowship called “elders” can be a stumbling block.

    Having elders who serve Biblically does not in the least diminish the sainthood of all believers, or diminish leadership generally among all believers. Elders are just one expression of sainthood and leadership, with a Biblically recognized and defined role to play in the life of a local fellowship.

    • says

      Indeed, I left a ton of things out. The scourge of blog posts. This one was already pushing 1,500 words. The rest is addressed in “Reimagining Church.” But elders are mentioned in Point 1 and Point 2. Elders/overseers/shepherds and every other gift and function the NT mentions certain did and still do exist. They are native to the ekklesia.

      So we agree. I, like Robert Banks, just don’t view them as a *modern office* — by that we mean a sociological construct that has authority independent from the people who populate it, like the “office” of President. Doesn’t matter if you have a buzzard or a noble man in the white house, he still wields the authority of the Presidency. The authority is inherent in the office. In the NT, we don’t see elders working in that same way.

      As Banks points out, the many Greek words for “office” are never used of them or any other function in the church. The spiritual authority they express is by virtue of their wisdom and spiritual insight which comes from growth in Christ’s life (hence elders can be translated “seniors” — they were the older, aged ones in the OT). That may be a minor divergence. Even so, I’m glad you agree with the post.

      • Jim Buchan says

        This blog post contains many excellent points, but it is an example of going from one extreme to another. Yes, the church has been much too focused on titles and offices. But it does little good to ignore the vital role that leadership has taken through the pages of Scripture and subsequent history. Arguing about Greek words masks the reality that God typically calls men and women to take initiative and lead His people. Yes, everyone has a sphere of leadership of some kind, but we also need visionary leaders who see the big picture and can mobilize the church to action. Not everyone is gifted like that, but such people are sorely needed today.

        • says

          You’re not talking about leadership, but about specific kinds of leadership. Namely, prophets and apostles. Your point would be better made by saying, “The church needs prophets and apostles.” Again, the NT is clear that EVERY Christian is a leader in some capacity … every believer is kleros, laos, a minister, a priest, and a member of the body, the Head being Jesus. There are no “extremes” presented here, but instead, a challenge to traditional thinking. The clergy/laity caste system was obliterated in the NT. It’s difficult for some to see this since the clergy/laity (leader/non-leader) is in the bloodstream of contemporary Christianity. Time for a blood transfusion. 😉

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