Kingdom leadership exists where there is mutual submission and where no rank is given. Even if the truth is taught about the need for every member of the body to function, our leadership structures often give little or no place for their functioning. If any room is given, it is generally controlled by those in charge. Those who are given any area of authority in the running of affairs simply form part of the controlling body. Usually, there is a lot of give and take in decision making, etc., but in the end the main leader can generally have his way if he really wants to, or at least have a huge influence on the outcome of things.
This controlling effect varies from dormancy to extreme, but it is always there, because it is an automatic outcome of that type of worldly leadership structure and mindset that’s been embraced. Flesh produces flesh. It is a mindset that is not from Christ and therefore it isn’t supported by His Spirit. If certain buttons are pressed, then even the seemingly open minded are challenged to act appropriately and to be unbiased. For these leaders, control is always an option to exercise to some or other degree.
Does Jesus put His sheep into structures where men have such an influence on the outcomes? Too often the rebuff to this is that the ideal is a leader with a group of elders that are consulted. However, even then, the mere position of a leader (head pastor/ reverend/ bishop/ director) carries a weight in meetings that can be exerted to bring about his or her view being implemented, or at least a view that he or she is able to have a large influence on.
The chances of a church or any group going astray is more likely with a single head, even if he or she is surrounded by a group of elders. Error in the person’s thoughts, teaching and direction is protected by the person’s position. People fearing how to approach a higher ranked person often don’t. The outcome of being misunderstood or even simply not being given room is too painful for some. Or, when bold enough, the issue at stake needs to be weighed against the possibility of causing a rift and whether the case warrants it. Disagreement with the head causes a conflict that wouldn’t exist if the leader didn’t have that position of control.
So, does this structure support the flow where everybody can hear the voice of the Lord?
Power corrupts! When a person is given rank, he has more face to lose and more to protect. Even the best natured Christian leader will hurt the body of Christ sometime or another simply because he has submitted himself to this leadership style and one of its inevitabilities is control. I believe Jesus not only said that “it ought not to be so among you”, but He also gave a way in which we can function free from this.
Mutual submission to the only Head of the body means common answers take time, but this fosters group unity, mutual respect and ultimately an outcome that honors the Head and all the parts of His body. Until we have submitted to this, we run on worldly principles that cause division and a mastering over one another in the body of Christ.
There are many arguments against this and many apparent Biblical ones too. However, I hope that this truth will become more and more a part of the body of Christ to give room for the only Head to bless the body. “…when brothers dwell in unity… there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore” (Psalm 133:1).
Expect Christian leadership as we have known it to disappear more and more, and the church to take on a different look. It might appear as innocuous as the early church did, but it is here that real life, light, love and Jesus’ authority will flow.
What then, do we do away with leadership? Yes and no. Yes, in the way it controls others or has structures that have the ability to control. No, in the need for mutual submission to one another’s gifting and the way in which the Head may want to lead through any one at any particular time. Eldership is needed, but this is to guide and encourage growth, not to direct and control it.
By Rob Morley