Thursday, February 21, 2013

Principles of Christian leadership

One of the hardest things I've found about serving in ministry is that on one hand, Christian leadership has human-centered expectations attached to it, and on the other, these expectations are totally in contradiction with the tenets of God-centered leadership.  To define a "leader" from the secular paradigm, there is the subject-- the one doing the leading, and the object-- those under subjugation of that leader, i.e., the follower or followers.

In the Biblical paradigm, however, there is only Creator and created-- the latter put wholly under the subjugation of the former, who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.  Thus, "leaders" in the church do not lead in the truest sense of the word, but are merely vessels who guide their peers to worship of their Creator.

Too often, those in ministry are predisposed to adopt leadership principles of a worldly sense, inviting the sin of pride and hypocrisy into their hearts.  Kathy Keller outlines the dangers of "faking it" in ministry over at TGC:  
And after a while you hardly even admit to yourself you're faking interest in the other person, faking enthusiasm for Christ and his gospel, faking your entire Christian life, because you don't even recall what it was like to have a vibrant relationship to God. You have become hollow. You may still look and sound good on the outside, but inside the reality of God's presence is gone.
Within the parameters of human-centered leadership, there are only two parties: a human leader, and a human follower, both of whom are sinners who need God's grace.

Leadership in the Biblical sense, on the other hand, is better thought of as guidance, a God-gifted ability for a select few to shepherd or tend to fellow Christians.  When Jesus asks Peter three times whether or not he loves Him (John 21), we see a moment not of rebuke, but of instruction, where Peter is to demonstrate his love for Jesus by dutifully caring for Christ's flock.  It is out of a love for Jesus in which Peter is called to leadership through herding (pomaine) and tending (boske) fellow believers.  What a change from the petty moments when Peter squabbled with his fellow disciples over who was the greatest (Luke 9:46)!

Like Peter, I've come to learn that leadership in the church is not about who is greatest or what he or she can do to lead a body of believers, but about humbling oneself before God, and being charged with loving the Lord first-- and only then is shepherding Jesus' flock possible.

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