A great man once said to me, “Pastor, the church is the biggest business in the world because it’s God’s business and it’s not like any other business.” If you could have done life with this man for even one day, you would have understood a man with a kingdom-mind and a servant-heart. The idea is that when we model church after the world we fail the very people we’re called to serve. It is past time to leave behind the idolatry of corporate management structures and rediscover the vastly different way of servant-leadership modeled by Jesus.
The world is concerned with being served, the kingdom is concerned with serving. The world enjoys thrones, first-class seating, cruise ships, and penthouse views. The kingdom is concerned with the underdog and the marginalized. How did American church culture become so hierarchical and power-driven anyway? Jesus didn’t sit in a high spot, bark orders, and demand service. He picked up a towel and basin and washed people’s feet. He put his arms around folks and empowered them for life and ministry.
This isn’t a new problem, however. In fact it’s a natural human tendency to crave the false sense of security that comes with following a single voice. Too often churches idolize their leaders in an unhealthy way, and far too often leaders set themselves up to be idols. The temptation is not a new one. We see this modeled early in scripture when Israel cried for Samuel to appoint a king over them. So do churches today hand power over to individuals for the sake of security. In this, we fail to fully embrace Jesus’ insistence that his heavenly Father is already our king and leader.
Pastors and church leaders are called to be under-shepherds. I like the term under-leader because we are under the leadership of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus demonstrated this by living in submission to the will of the Father and releasing his rightful authority in order to live among his disciples as brothers and sisters, not commander-in-chief. This did not diminish his influence or authority. In fact, it greatly increased it. He spoke and ministered with anointing because he was intimately connected to something greater than himself.
Humility among co-laborers brings about a way of living in which every member of the community is not just allowed to participate with his or her gifts, but expected to do so. As his disciples, we must resist the temptation to wield power over others. Pastors and church leaders, it’s your job to equip people for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12).
Jesus empowered his disciples and told them that they would do even greater things than he did (John 14:12). Therefore, with the Bible as our map and the Holy Spirit as our compass, may we help real people experience real power that only comes from a real God. Lead like Jesus, not a corporate CEO. Make every day count. Empower others. Be the best under-leader you can be!
(Sources: J.B. Shaw; “Do Some Churches Suffer From Leadership Immunity?” by Lance Ford)