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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Myth of Church Leadership (4)

Followers of the Lord Not Leaders of His People

As we have considered the absence of scriptural directives for any believer to be a leader of others and the inherent dangers when mortal men lead others, we would also do well to see the abundance of instructions to all believers to be followers of the Lord!

In the NT alone there are 25 direct commands given to believers to follow the Lord Jesus. There are 8 specific instances of people being obedient in following him and 4 specific warnings not to follow those who do not follow him!

Six times Paul instructs believers to follow him but clearly does not direct us to follow him blindly but only to follow him as he followed Christ.  Those who follow Christ will always be good examples for others and so scripture also commands us to be followers of other saints before us who were followers of Christ.   (Please follow the subject of “following” and “followers” through the NT with your own Bible and concordance.)

In this regard, it is most instructive to consider all that the NT has to say about all believers being good examples for others to follow!

The Lord Jesus is our prime example and is to be the preeminent one that we follow. Immediately after he had taken the humble place of serving and washing his disciples’ feet, he said, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” John 13:15-17

Then Paul who wrote to the Corinthians, “Be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ”, wrote to the Philippian believers to follow him and others who walked in the same way, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.Philippians 3:17

Then as Paul wrote to the saints at Thessalonica we see how the task of being followers of the Lord Jesus and good examples to others is passed on down to each succeeding generation of believers… “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” I Thess.1:6-10

So it is very clear from the teaching of the Lord Jesus and the apostles that they were not at all interested in “leadership development”. Rather they were most interested in “followership development”!  Followers of the Lord Jesus would always be good examples and patterns for the generation that would follow them!

We see that Paul taught this same principle to younger men who were co-workers of his:…
To young Timothy, Paul wrote the following: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.”

To young Titus Paul wrote telling him how to instruct both older and younger brothers and sisters in the Lord. But all of his instructions to others were to be illustrated and reinforced by the example and pattern of his own behaviour… But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” Titus 2:1-8

In Paul’s final visit and conversation with the Ephesian elders - the instructions, commands and warning which he gave stand in stark contrast to the common practices of “church leadership” of today! “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts 20:28-35

Finally Peter, who was given the responsibility of feeding the Lord’s sheep, writes to other shepherd/elders teaching exactly the same things as the Lord Jesus and Paul had taught.  I believe that Peter’s words here are some of the clearest instructions in all the NT  which reprove many of the ideas connected with “church leadership” today and teaching the positive pattern of followers of the Lord Jesus being living examples for others to follow… “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over  God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” I Peter 5:1-3

(Your comments and questions are welcomed and encouraged. In the next post, I hope to show from the scriptures we’ve been considering the vast differences between  the scriptural teaching for followers of the Lord and the prevalent conception of “church leadership” of our day.)

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